Hospital sued over serious injuries in suicide attempt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am

A woman who became paraplegic after jumping from the third-floor podium of Union Hospital is suing the hospital for more than HK$25 million for failing to stop her harming herself.

Chan Yin-na, 31, is alleging in the Court of First Instance that the hospital's staff and consulting psychiatrist Leo Chiu Pak-wang failed to recognise that she was suffering from severe suicidal tendencies at the time of her admission on October 8, 2000, or throughout the period leading up to her suicide attempt two days later.

As a consequence of that failure, it is alleged, no adequate precautions were put in place either to supervise her or stop her trying to take her own life.

Ms Chan was admitted to the hospital after being diagnosed with post-natal depression. She had been in and out of several other hospitals in the month leading up to her trip to Union Hospital, and according to her counsel, Ruy Baretto SC, had been diagnosed as being in a state of depression with suicidal thoughts.

She had received various forms of treatment at those institutions, he said.

Ms Chan had attended Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital on October 7 complaining of suicidal thoughts and while there had, Mr Baretto said, attempted suicide.

At Union Hospital, Ms Chan was attended by Dr Chiu, who it is alleged did not do enough to compile a complete patient history. Had he done so, Mr Baretto said, it would have been clear that Ms Chan was in a serious state of depression and constituted a high suicide risk.

Mr Baretto noted that Union Hospital does not claim to provide facilities for people suffering from serious psychiatric disorders.

Even if Dr Chiu's initial diagnosis of her constituting a mild suicide risk was justified, it should have become clear as time went on and more was found out about her situation that the risk was anything but mild, Mr Baretto said.

'If the correct facts were known ... [Dr Chiu] should have advised her to go to a public hospital with facilities for psychiatric care or put in place suicide precautions,' he said.

Counsel for Dr Chiu, John Bleach SC, demanded a description of exactly what precautions Mr Baretto was suggesting had been neglected.

'It's a simple question,' Mr Bleach said in one of many heated exchanges. 'We want to know what your case is.'

Mr Baretto, after insisting that the nature of the exact precautions depended on the diagnosis and ongoing monitoring of the patient, agreed at the prodding of Mr Justice Azizul Suffiad to prepare a list for Mr Bleach in time for the trial to continue today.