Doctors not to blame for death of jogger, 69

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am

A probe into the death of an elderly man from a brain haemorrhage after he was prescribed the wrong medicine at Tuen Mun Hospital has concluded doctors were not to blame.

The 69-year-old man suffered a heart attack while jogging in November. He was admitted to hospital after he fell and hit his head.

Three specialists who examined his brain scan concluded it showed no sign of internal bleeding and administered a blood thinner and aspirin to treat blocked heart vessels.

A second brain scan carried out days later indicated blood-clotting.

Doctors re-examined the first scan and found it did show signs of bleeding. They would not have used the blood thinner if they had noticed bleeding in the first scan, the hospital admitted after the patient died.

Yesterday, a five-member investigation panel - four of them working for the Hospital Authority - concluded that the clinical diagnosis and judgments of the three doctors were of professional standard. Signs of bleeding on the first brain scan were too subtle to read, they decided.

On the day when the patient was admitted, the doctor in the accident and emergency department ordered an immediate brain scan.

Due to the urgency of the case, the doctor decided on the clinical treatment straight after reviewing the scan film. Doctors at the hospital's department of medicine and a cardiologist later examined the scan.

It was difficult to confirm there was bleeding in the brain by reading the film alone, the panel ruled.

Three recommendations were made by the panel. Doctors should read electronic scan images as well as reading traditional films, it advised.

When dealing with high risk patients, they should consult a radiologist to interpret the brain scan.

And for patients with head injuries, doctors should notify patients and families earlier of the potential risks of using anti-platelet and anti-coagulant drugs, it added.

Dr Kwok Ka-ki, convenor of the concern group Caring Hong Kong, said the operator of public hospitals should not appoint its own doctors to investigate blunders.

'If it wants more creditability, an independent panel made up of non-Hospital Authority members should be in charge,' Kwok said.

The Hospital Authority received 44 reports of incidents involving death or serious physical or psychological injury from October 2010 to September last year.


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