Grieving Parents still want answers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am


An independent expert consulted over the case of a boy who died after spinal surgery at Tuen Mun Hospital has questioned why doctors removed his breathing tube so soon after the operation.

In a report sent to the boy's parents yesterday, Australian anaesthetist Dr Richard Riley said he would have waited a day to remove the tube after the surgery on 13-year-old Medwin Cheung Yui-ting.

However, the Royal Perth Hospital expert still concluded that he agreed with what the doctors did at the time.

Barrister and lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who has been representing the parents, described the report's findings as 'contradictory'.

'The logic in between is lacking,' he said yesterday after the parents met hospital representatives to receive the report.

Yui-ting was diagnosed with a subluxation, or misalignment, between two vertebrae in his neck, and had a 10-hour operation to fix it on August 4. The parents say they were told the surgery had been successful and that doctors had decided to remove the breathing tube. However, Yui-ting soon developed breathing difficulties, and his heart stopped for a period shortly afterwards. The doctors performed an hour-long resuscitation and he died 18 days later.

In the six-page report, Riley, also clinical associate professor of anaesthesia at the University of Western Australia, said the doctors had followed textbook procedures in performing the resuscitation .

'Our questions are still unanswered,' said the boy's mother, Cheng Miu-wah. She said the family wanted to know the advantages and disadvantages of removing the breathing tube right after the surgery and why it took so long to restore her son's breathing.

Of the 317-page investigation report by the hospital, only 265 pages were given to the family on October 12. It was only when Cheng discovered there were missing pages and made a request to the hospital that they were given the complete report. 'This gives us a reason to suspect that the report given to the expert was not complete,' Cheng said.

The hospital staff originally scheduled a press conference, but cancelled it when Cheng demanded to attend. 'It's very strange. We have no bad motives. We just wanted to know more,' she said.

The Tuen Mun Hospital said in a statement that the report confirmed medical care provided to the boy was up to standard and the decision to remove the breathing at the time was not an error of judgment.

Depending on the clinical situation, it said, early removal of a breathing tube can facilitate the early monitoring of neurological functions and be useful for evaluating and monitoring the surgical outcome. A full set of the boy's medical records had already been provided to the family on October 28, the hospital added.