Medical malpractice has been much discussed, but today we take a look at this issue from the other side of the fence, addressing five more patients - or rather, five more victims of this unfortunate medical reality. 

1. Leela Ruba Kamalakannan – Death by negligence

In March 2011, 10-year-old Leela consulted doctors at the Healthway Medical Corporation and followed up at the National Skin Center of Singapore for what appeared to be a skin rash. However, the girl’s condition did not improve with treatment.

Four weeks later, Leela collapsed at home without warning and was rushed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital, where they found a haemorrhage in her brain. Despite surgical intervention, she died three days later.

Following her death, her family sued the hospitals for alleged negligence – a timely blood test would have revealed a low platelet count, and a more accurate diagnosis could have averted her death. Her parents later agreed to settle the civil case, on terms that are kept private and confidential. “(They) would like closure on this episode and to move on with their life,” said their lawyer.

2. Kim Tutt – Wrong diagnosis due to lab contamination

A maxillofacial x-ray at the dentist had revealed a large lump on the left side of Kim’s jaw. “I was told I had cancer in my jaw,” she recounted. “I was given three to six months to live.”

Doctors then told her that she could live three months longer if she consented to a radical surgery – removal of the left side of her chin, right up to her ear, and replacing the bone with her fibula.

Only 34 years old at the time, and wanting more time with her young children, she underwent a total of five surgeries only to find out three months later that she was cancer-free, and that she probably never had cancer at all. “We think your original biopsy was cross-contaminated at the lab,” explained the doctor.

Kim had undergone a total of five surgeries, is missing nine teeth and has difficulty chewing. “Money will not change what my family has been through,” she has lamented.

3. Jesica Santillan – A deadly transplant

At 17 years of age, Jesica Santillan had to undergo a major life-saving operation – a heart and double-lung transplant. The surgical procedure was risky and difficult, but it was not the operation that led to her death.

She died after her body rejected the donor organs, which turned out to be from a donor whose blood was type A.

Santillan was blood type O.

The health professionals at Duke University Hospital had neglected to cross-check the match of the donor organs with Santillan’s blood type. Upon realising their mistake, the hospital went for a frantic search for another donor, and she received a second transplant within two weeks, but Santillan was declared brain dead and eventually taken off life support.

The wrong blood type caused her brain death, and she was taken off life support.

“We take responsibility for our part in that error,” said Ralph Snyderman, the chancellor for health affairs at Duke Hospital.

4. Nurul Husna - Irreversible brain damage by negligence

In 2005, while Nor Azalina was in labour, medical officers at Selayang Hospital in Malaysia failed to call for a paediatric doctor on stand-by despite detection of foetal distress.

The doctors had also allegedly failed to advise her on her delivery options, and neglected to explain the risks of undergoing a vaginal delivery despite having had a history of a lower segment C-section.

Seven years after her daughter, Nurul Husna, was born, Nor Azalina sued the government, the hospital, and 28 others for negligence in duty to exercise reasonable care and skill, which allegedly led to brain damage in Nurul Husna and causing the family to suffer from anxiety and mental anguish.

“She will, for the rest of her life be dependent on others for all of her activities of daily living,” said Nurul Husna’s father. In 2014, the then nine-year-old girl was awarded RM2.78 million in damages by the High Court.

5. Maria De Jesus - Lost her baby, and her life

In 2011, a 32-year-old pregnant woman by the name of Maria De Jesus was admitted to Queen’s Hospital in the UK after complaints of abdominal pain, which was diagnosed to be appendicitis.

A relatively straightforward appendectomy turned catastrophic – she was operated on by unsupervised trainee surgeons who removed one of her ovaries, instead of her appendix.

She was discharged home, only to return with persistent complaints of pain. It was only then that the doctors realised their error.

Unfortunately, she had suffered a miscarriage, and in a second attempt to remove her appendix – 19 days after her first operation – De Jesus passed away on the operating table from sepsis and multiple organ failure. MIMS

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