Doctors’ blunder left Hong Kong mother dying from liver failure

Hospital apologises for failing to treat woman with correct drugs and says it has set up a panel to investigate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2017, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 4:54pm

A serious blunder by doctors led to the acute liver failure of a Hong Kong mother who later needed two transplants to save her life and is still in critical condition, the hospital involved said on Tuesday.

Two specialists, who have not been named, are still practising at United Christian Hospital despite a failure to prescribe an anti-viral drug as a precaution when treating Tang Kwai-sze, 43, with ­steroids for a kidney condition in January and February.

Without the medicine, Tang, a hepatitis B sufferer, was at risk of acute liver failure – a condition that befell her in April.

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Hospital CEO Dr Chui Tak-yi said the negligence came to light only when the hospital looked into Tang’s medical records on April 6.

But Tang’s teenage daughter, Michelle, said the family was never informed about the mistake until they questioned the hospital about the mother’s sudden liver condition on April 19. “I was shocked when I first learned about this [the oversight],” ­Michelle said on Tuesday. “I was suspicious of my mother’s condition, so I went to United Christian to ask about it. The hospital never reached out to us before that.”

Michelle planned to address the media today to discuss whether the family would take action against the Hospital Authority.

A patients’ group and several lawmakers criticised the hospital for the “unacceptable” delay in ­informing the family and making the mistake public.

Chui apologised to the patient and her family and admitted there was room for improvement in communicating with the ­them.

I was shocked when I first learned about this ... The hospital never reached out to us before that
Michelle, daughter of patient Tang Kwai-sze

He said the two sides had reached a “consensus” about making public the blunder Tuesday. Michelle said she was informed about it just before Tuesday’s press conference.

Michelle was unable to donate part of her liver to save her mother as she was three months shy of the legal age of 18.

The family said it was so desperate it considered legal ­action to allow the donation.

A stranger, Momo Cheng Hoi-yan, 26, came to the rescue to ­donate two-thirds of her liver.

But the new organ did not function well and about a week later Tang received a second transplant, this time from a ­deceased patient.

That operation was a success, but Tang was still in critical condition at Queen Mary Hospital ­on Tuesday.

She is now struggling to recover from a fungal infection in her blood and lungs, according to Dr Kelvin Ng Kwok-chai of the hospital’s liver transplant centre.

Ng explained that the hepatitis B virus could be reactivated with the use of steroids and could weaken the body’s immune system.

“If there is no antiviral drug, the virus could grow uncontrolled and affect the liver,” he said, adding that an individual’s condition would determine whether the virus would cause liver failure.

On Tuesday, Chui would not say whether the doctors involved in Tang's case would be suspended, stressing an investigative panel had been formed and that its report was due in eight weeks.