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Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong widower declares justice in 2015 death of pregnant wife at Princess Margaret Hospital after inquest ruling

Wong Wing-yan, who was 23 weeks pregnant, miscarried a day after she was admitted to hospital. Two days later she died while still under the care of doctors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 11:33am

A pregnant woman did not suffer from a fatal condition before she was admitted to public hospital where she died after doctors failed to detect her miscarriage and provide timely treatment, an inquest ruled on Friday.

The Coroner’s Court jury found the woman died from misadventure, meaning Wong Wing-yan, 31, did not suffer from any underlying fatal conditions when she was admitted in November 2015 to the Princess Margaret Hospital, in Kwai Chung.

Wong, who was 23 weeks pregnant, miscarried a day after she went to hospital because she felt unwell and was concerned about the welfare of her unborn child. Two days later she died while still under the care of doctors.

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Widower Jacky Tsang Kwan-hung appeared relieved outside court.

“The Coroner’s Court has brought justice,” he said.

The ruling comes as Tsang is suing the Hospital Authority, which oversees the city’s public hospitals. Tsang’s solicitor, Lau Kar-wah, said the authority had already admitted liability in a the HK$5 million (US$637,000) suit, but had yet to agree on the amount to be paid.

Tsang stressed he could never forgive the medical staff involved, urging them to be more conscientious in the future.

During the five-day inquest, the court heard that Wong had decided to go to Princess Margaret Hospital on November 22, 2015, after she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection at a private hospital. However, Wong did not realise that her amniotic sac had broken before she was admitted to hospital.

A doctor and midwife trainee also failed to see that her water had broken – and Wong did not receive the right type of antibiotics soon enough, which could have prevented infection.

The fetus died the next day from infection, which spread to the placenta, Wong’s uterus, and eventually her bloodstream. Doctors succeeded in removing the fetus, but not the placenta.

The court heard that in treating her, doctors decided to surgically remove her placenta. But a miscommunication between the hospital and the blood bank caused a five-hour delay.

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At one point, the hospital also found out that the antibiotic used to combat the infection was not effective and it took staff hours to switch to the right antibiotic.

Wong’s organs eventually failed, and she died on November 25, 2015.

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In their ruling, jurors said the Hospital Authority should improve communications between anaesthesiologists and surgeons, while requiring only registered midwives to examine patients upon admission – something to be learned from Wong’s case.

They also called for better education for expectant mothers so they could learn about the possible consequences – sometimes fatal – when the amniotic sac bursts.

A spokesman from the Hospital Authority said it would consider the jury’s suggestions, adding that Princess Margaret Hospital had stepped up certain measures, including enhancing education for expectant mothers, since 2015.

Coroner Wong Wai-kuen offered his condolences to Tsang and Wong’s family before he dismissed the inquest.

“In life we have to move on. Failing to step out of darkness only brings hardship,” he said.