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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Hong Kong hospital patient, 75, told family to fight for justice after suspected shower attack left him fatally wounded

Hard object, reportedly a shower head, was inserted into victim’s anus, causing wound that later deteriorated

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 10:51pm

A 75-year-old man, who died after a patient care assistant at a Hong Kong hospital allegedly shoved a “hard object … the length of one’s palm” up his rectum, demanded justice before dying, his son said on Wednesday.

The victim, an end-stage renal failure patient surnamed Wong, who had been first admitted to hospital in December with a viral infection, was in good spirits before the incident and expected to be discharged on Wednesday, the son added.

“This is a fall from heaven to hell,” the son said.

From eagerly expecting to leave hospital, things got worse over the weekend for Wong, who complained to staff at Tuen Mun Hospital’s medical rehabilitation ward on Saturday that a hard object had been repeatedly inserted into him during a shower, according to a statement from the hospital Tuesday.

An initial examination revealed Wong’s rectum had been perforated. His condition subsequently deteriorated and he died on Sunday.

While the hospital did not specify what that object was, early reports have suggested it was a shower head.

The hospital and family have both filed reports with police, who are investigating the incident. The hospital is conducting its own internal investigation.

On Wednesday evening the hospital apologised for giving Wong’s family an “unpleasant experience”.

“The hospital understands that during the communication process between medical staff and the patient and his family, experiences that are not ideal and unpleasant had occurred,” it said. “We apologise and expresses deep condolences to the patient’s relatives.”

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The hospital said doctors had told Wong and his family an operation to treat the rectum perforation could trigger “serious complications”, because of his age and renal condition.

At the time, both sides agreed to continue with more conservative treatments, the hospital said.

Earlier, Wong’s son said he was informed by the hospital about bleeding from his father’s anus at 1pm on Saturday, but staff did not provide a clear account of what had caused it.

The son said he only learned about the incident from his father, who recalled “crying out in pain” when a hard object “the length of one’s palm” was first inserted into his rectum.

“The caretaker told him that it was normal, and repeated [the procedure] another five to six times,” the son said, adding his father was told it would help with constipation.

When asked what tools could be used to ease constipation, hospital representatives said it could involve the use of drugs, fingers and soft plastic tubes, the son added.

Lawmaker Lau Kwok-fan, who has been assisting the family, said there was no official record of the procedure taking place.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, a urologist, said the treatment of constipation usually starts with the use of oral laxatives.

Should that fail, doctors could prescribe other methods, including colonic irrigation.

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“Colonic irrigations are usually done by nurses, and would not be done during shower, as it requires the patient to lie down on a bed,” Kwok said, adding the procedure involves the use of soft plastic tubes to pump laxative into the patient’s rectum.

Under normal circumstances, both procedures are unlikely cause harm to a patient, he said.

The son made details of the case public after becoming angry with the hospital’s press release on Tuesday, which said Wong had rejected an emergency operation to repair the wound.

On Saturday, an ulcer 2cm in length was found in Wong’s rectum, and was treated. His condition continued to deteriorate, however, and a colonoscopy by a surgeon and doctor revealed the perforation.

The hospital said in its statement an urgent operation was recommended, but Wong had declined it – a version of events his son took umbrage with.

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He said hospital staff told the family the operation to stop the bleeding was high-risk, with his father’s chances of survival “less than half”.

Not wanting to go through with the procedure, Wong rejected the operation and told the family to fight for justice, the son said.

The family is set to file another report with police on Wednesday.

Lau, who is a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the family would not rest until they had fulfilled Wong’s demand for justice.

“Whether murder or manslaughter was involved in the incident, we will pursue to the very end,” Lau said.

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Hospital management was told of the incident on Monday and was “highly concerned”, the press release continued. An internal investigation was conducted immediately.

“After communicating with the patient’s relatives, the hospital decided to report the case to police,” the statement said.

The press release did not provide details about who might have been responsible, but a source familiar with the case told the Post the object had been inserted in a suspected attack by a patient care assistant.

The hospital said it would cooperate with police in the investigation. The case has been referred to the coroner. No arrests have been made so far.