Appeal by minister for inquest into death of boy during surgery rejected

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 December, 2010, 12:00am

The Court of First Instance says an inquest should not be held into the death of a boy who suffered a pulmonary haemorrhage while having a tumour removed four years ago.

Mr Justice Joseph Fok rejected an appeal by the Secretary for Justice against a decision by Coroner William Ng Sing-wai in 2008.

Angus Wong Ho-leong, five, died in November 2006 at Queen Mary Hospital while a minimally-invasive procedure was being performed to remove what was described as a huge tumour in his chest. He bled severely and suffered heart failure.

In rejecting the minister's application, Fok said matters the Coroner's Court needed to ascertain in an inquest - including identity of the deceased, how he died, and particulars needed by the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance - were already known in Wong's case.

There was no evidence showing that the apparent surgical mistake in Wong's case was one that occurs repeatedly, the judge said, nor of any deficiency in a particular system or method of work that should be examined at an inquest.

'The death of a young child in the course of medical treatment, which his family would naturally hope would lead to his being returned to good health, is a tragedy and the court's sympathy is with the family of this young boy,' the judge said. However, he said he was not convinced an inquest should be held.

The government's application cited among its reasons an argument that it could serve a wider public interest in avoiding similar surgical problems in future.

It was only the second case in which the minister sought an inquest on public interest grounds after a coroner declined to hold one.

The cause of Wong's death, established in an autopsy, was found to be severe blood loss and an aortic tear.

One specialist, Dr Anthony Yim Ping-chuen, described the tumour, measuring 8cm by 6.5cm by 4.4cm as huge and said there was a 'serious mistake in surgical judgment' in the boy's case.