Doctors slated over 'rare' death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 12:00am

A coroner yesterday accused doctors of underestimating the risks in a procedure in which a tube that was intended to be inserted into an elderly patient's bile duct punctured the woman's throat.

The inquest heard Yue Yuet-kiu, 82, died three days after what had been described as a low-risk procedure carried out at Yan Chai Hospital, Tsuen Wan, on June 29 last year.

Dr Lee Kwok-fai said he found Yue had symptoms of a blocked bile duct when he called the patient back for an examination after a six-day stay in the hospital.

Yue had been admitted to hospital on June 15 with breathing problems. She was found to have blood poisoning caused by an E. coli infection and was treated with antibiotics.

Suspecting her illness was caused by a blockage of the bile duct that might recur, possibly causing death, Dr Lee intended that the tube be inserted to check the duct and remove any blockage.

The examination was done by Dr Leung Cheuk-sun, who inserted a tube through Yue's mouth. However, after about 30cm of the tube had been inserted, Dr Leung found her oxygen level was abnormal. He then pulled out the tube and called for help. Yue was transferred to the intensive care unit and died on July 2. Forensic examiner Tsui Po said Yue died of a punctured throat, which led to an infection of membrane within the chest cavity.

Dr Leung said it was rare for such a procedure to go wrong, describing what happened as unexpected. Dr Lee said the likelihood of death arising from complications was as low as 0.1 per cent.

Coroner Andrew Chan Hing-wai said: 'I have dealt with many cases here before. It is not the case that such incidents rarely happen, as you doctors think.'

The inquest continues.