Minister seeks to force inquest

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 12:00am

Serious public interest requires an inquest into the death of a boy who had a pulmonary haemorrhage during an operation, a court heard yesterday.

This was so because of what a specialist described as 'gross errors' by the surgeons involved, the Court of First Instance was told.

The submission came from deputy director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin at the start of a hearing in which the Secretary for Justice, in a rare move, is seeking an order under the Coroner's Ordinance that an inquest be held into the death of Angus Wong Ho-leong, five, on November 2, 2006, at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam during an operation to remove a tumour near his chest.

Coroner William Ng Sing-wai declined to hold an inquest in 2008.

Yesterday Leung told the court that cardiothoracic specialist Professor Anthony Yim Ping-chuen had said surgeons performing the operation made gross errors.

Yim also said the risk of the operation was seriously underestimated, and questions were raised as to whether some of the surgeons were properly trained. The minimally invasive approach, which had been chosen, was not suitable for a tumour of such size. The boy's tumour measured 8cm by 7.5cm by 5cm.

The boy's mother said she was not sufficiently informed of the risks of the operation, Leung said.

An important function of an inquest was to make recommendations, he said. 'At the end of the day, if there are any deficiencies in the system, then recommendations can be made so that the relevant persons can make changes,' he said.

In declining to hold an inquest, coroner Ng said it was not his court's function to determine civil liability. That should be left to the civil courts or the Medical Council.

Mr Justice Joseph Fok reserved his ruling.

Yesterday's case was only the second in which the minister has taken action to seek an inquest on public interest grounds after a coroner had declined to hold one.

The first was the case of model Annie Pang Chor-ying, whose skeleton was found in 1999 in a flat owned by her lover, John Fang Meng-sang, brother of former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Police came to no conclusion as to how she had died. In 2006 an inquest ruled her death to have been by accident or misadventure.