Mishearing cited by doctor in death case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am


Miscommunication may have led to a delay in transferring a dying breast-implant patient to hospital, the coroner's court heard yesterday.

Doctors waited 45 minutes for a piece of breathing apparatus to keep Zoey Leung Kwan alive on a five-minute drive from a private clinic in Jordan to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

If doctors had realised the laryngeal mask airway would take so long to arrive they might have acted differently, the court heard.

Dr Hwang Shu-tak, who helped in efforts to resuscitate a comatose Leung after she received an excessive amount of anaesthetic at the clinic, said ambulance staff 'may have misunderstood my meaning' when he first called for a laryngeal mask airway to keep the patient breathing during the transfer.

Hwang, a surgeon who had come to help Leung's surgeon, Dr Wong Kar-mau, resuscitate the twitching 24-year-old woman, said a non-breathing patient 'could die in three minutes'.

Wong told the court earlier that the first ambulance that arrived did not have the required equipment.

Yesterday, Hwang said he called for the breathing aid immediately on his arrival but 'they told me they didn't have it as they were not trained to use it, and they called another car to bring it'. But when a second batch of ambulance staff arrived at the clinic 20 minutes later, they still did not have the device. Eventually it was brought by a motorcycle ambulance. 'They may have misunderstood my meaning,' Hwang said. By then they had no choice but to wait as Leung's condition had deteriorated.

Leung, who had wanted bigger breasts as a surprise for her boyfriend, died on May 11 last year, 11 days after she went into a coma during surgery. She weighed 42kg but had been administered enough anaesthetic for a 50kg woman.

The inquest continues before Coroner Michael Chan Pik- kiu.