By Mariam Mokhtar
OUTSPOKEN: Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, travels an emotional roller-coaster. Their priorities in life change. Their life, family and work, are affected, but what should they do, if they discover that their cancer was misdiagnosed?
Relief is one reaction. Or will they feel cheated, having spent much time, money and endless worry, on a cure?
Does one thank God, that their prayers, were answered? Should they sue for medical malpractice? Should they keep quiet? Or perhaps highlight the matter, for others to learn from their experience?
Businessman, lawyer and former journalist, Clement Hii Chii Kok found himself in this predicament. He sued Singaporean oncologist and surgeon, Professor London Lucien Ooi, and the National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS), for medical negligence.
In 2010, Hii’s Malaysian doctors referred him to the NCCS for a gallium scan, which uses a radioactive trace to detect infection, inflammation and tumours. Nodules were found in Hii’s lungs.
The Straits Times of Singapore reported that Hii’s gallium scan indicated malignancy.
Hii underwent an MRI scan and consulted two oncologists, before he was referred to Dr Ooi, a specialist in hepatobiliary, pancreatic surgery and surgical oncology.
Following further consultations with Dr Ooi, Hii opted for “aggressive treatment” and underwent major surgery, to remove parts of five organs, at the Singapore General Hospital.
A fortnight after being discharged, Hii suffered complications and had to be operated on twice in Malaysia. He also found that he had hyperplasia, and not cancer.
In his suit, Hii claims that Dr Ooi had told him he had cancer of the pancreas and needed surgery; but Dr Ooi, denies this.
Judge Chan Seng Oon dismissed Hii’s suit and said, “This is nothing but a bald allegation … by (Hii) in a futile attempt to fortify his claim.”
He said that Dr Ooi was not negligent in caring for Hii after surgery. He also said that Dr Ooi had not misdiagnosed Hii’s cancer, nor had he given the wrong advice for Hii to undergo surgery.
Justice Chan ruled that it was not the duty of the NCCS to provide Hii with post-surgery care, because his operation was performed at the Singapore General Hospital.
Medical negligence suits can sometimes take years, some say as a delay tactic. Others claim that doctors have a tendency to close ranks, to avoid their peers being prosecuted.
So, what is the real Singapore? It is praised for its industrious people and its leaders who have carved a modern city from nothing; but scratch beneath its surface and there are many disturbing insights.
It is a place which will protect its alleged reputation as the money laundering capital of the East, where corrupt politicians and dodgy businessmen allegedly park their ill-gotten gains.
Remember the admission by Alvin Chong, the Sarawak lawyer who handled some of former Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud’s family’s transactions? He alleged that the money is stashed in Singapore, which he dubbed “the new Switzerland.”
Singapore punishes anyone who tars the squeaky clean image of the nation. British author, Alan Shadrake, who wrote about Singapore’s death penalty was jailed.
So, is Singapore trying to protect its reputation as a top medical tourism spot in Asia?
Who in their right mind would opt for surgery, if a consultant had not advised it? Hii is an astute businessman, not some misinformed bumpkin who hands his life over to a doctor.
Hii would not have elected to have extensive, invasive surgery on a whim.
One wonders if justice can be served without fear or favour in Singapore, or if it is swayed by commercial interests.
Mariam Mokhtar is “a Malaysian who dares to speak the truth”.
-The Ant Daily