Mother of boy who died during operation fights on for inquest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 November, 2008, 12:00am

A devastated mother will continue to fight for an inquest after the Coroner's Court decided not to hold one into the death of her five-year-old son, who died during a tumour- removal operation at Queen Mary Hospital two years ago.

Her son, Angus Wong Ho-leong, died of a pulmonary haemorrhage during a minimally invasive operation to remove a 10cm-diameter tumour near his chest on November 2, 2006.

Legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is helping the bereaved family members, said he would write to the secretary of justice to ask for a coroner's inquest.

The coroner decided on May 15 this year not to hold an inquest into the boy's death, after concluding from the report of a police investigation that it was an accident.

Family members wrote to the coroner to plead for the decision to be reconsidered, without success.

The Patients' Rights Association also wrote to the chief justice on the family's behalf, but he replied that it would be inappropriate to comment.

Under the Coroners Ordinance, 20 categories of deaths must be reported to the court. However, not all reported deaths will lead to an inquest.

Angus' case was highlighted by the South China Morning Post in December as one of three in which families were fighting for investigations into the death of a family member.

Concerns were raised about the dramatic drop in the number of autopsies and death investigations ordered by the coroner last year compared with previous years.

Angus' mother, who identified herself as Mrs Wong, said yesterday that only an inquest could help her find out the truth.

'I only want justice to be returned to my son ... we are talking about a human life here,' she wept. 'Whenever I see the kids on the street ... that makes me think of him, now being left alone.'

Mrs Wong questioned the Coroner's Court's decision, as the expert opinion sought by police during their investigation suggested a serious mistake in surgical judgment.

Expert Anthony Yim Ping-chuen, from Union Hospital, questioned the use of a minimally invasive technique to remove such a big tumour.

Dr Yim also said he believed the risks of the operation had been seriously underestimated by the surgeons.

Mr Ho said an inquest was necessary because it could help the public understand what went wrong in the surgical procedure, and make recommendations to prevent mistakes in the future.

The hospital said the case had been passed to the Coroner's Court in 2006 and it respected the court's decision.

It had also expressed the deepest condolences to members of Angus' family.

A judiciary spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment on individual cases.