QUEEN Elizabeth Hospital and three of its doctors were yesterday cleared by a High Court judge of causing the death of a patient by delaying his gallstone operation. Mr Justice Sears said Li Tin-sang, who was 40 at the time of his death, would have died even if the operation had not been delayed. The judge expressed his sympathy for the patient's widow, Kan Lai-ha, 41, who has been waiting six years for the legal claim to be settled. Mr Justice Sears said he found that the delay in operating on Li had made no difference to his chances of survival. The court heard Li was not operated on until 25 days after his admission to the hospital and during that time had even been discharged to 'give him a rest'. His family had been hoping to win damages of up to $800,000. The defendants in the action were the Attorney-General on behalf of the hospital, and doctors Ho Hiu-fai, Chong Lap-chun, and Choy Ping-fun. Denis Mitchell QC, acting for the family, told the judge: 'The plaintiffs' case is that he should have been operated on in proper time and that the delay in operating contributed materially to his death.' The court heard Li's condition is the second most common surgical emergency condition in the territory. The hospital and the doctors said the delay did not contribute to the death of the patient. His condition was such that he would have died even if operated on soon after his admission, they said. Mr Mitchell said Li suffered from an infection and ultimately peritonitis and blood poisoning from which he died. The operation was conducted on October 13, 1987. But an infection set in which two further operations failed to cure and Li died.