Doctor accused of wrongly removing patient’s spleen at HK hospital insists it was ‘not a blunder’

18-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A doctor accused of mistakenly removing a patient’s spleen has claimed he acted correctly to save the woman’s life.

The urologist, whose surname is Teoh, denied the operation was a medical blunder despite the Department of Health describing the organ as wrongly extracted.

He told the Post it was incorrectly listed as a mistake because the private hospital refused to modify an operation record after he noticed an urgent problem and performed the unplanned splenectomy.

The incident, which happened at St Paul’s Hospital in Causeway Bay in late March, was revealed by the department on Wednesday. It said a 57-year-old woman had her spleen wrongly removed, in an operation which was originally performed to remove a kidney tumour.

I have been working as a doctor for years and it is impossible that I would not be able to differentiate between a spleen and a kidney

Dr Teoh, urologist

“This is not a blunder, as I know what I was doing,” said Teoh, who refused to disclose his full name.

“I have been working as a doctor for years and it is impossible that I would not be able to differentiate between a spleen and a kidney.”

During the operation, he said, he noticed bruising on the patient’s peritoneum, a sign of a possible problem in the spleen.

“It would be a rather urgent matter if there were a problem with the spleen. Therefore I cut open the peritoneum, and I saw there was a tear on the spleen,” he said.

As there was bleeding in the patient’s spleen, Teoh said he decided to remove the entire organ, a common practice under such conditions.

“I felt what I did was a life-saving operation for the patient,” he said, adding that a surgery consent form had stated that a doctor could perform operations on any other part deemed to be affecting a patient’s health.

Teoh said he did not proceed to remove the patient’s kidney tumour as intended, as the surgery had already taken four to five hours and the patient had lost about 1,000 cubic centimetres of blood.

He added that the kidney tumour was less urgent than the spleen condition, which could be handled later.

Teoh said the hospital reported the case as a medical blunder to the Department of Health after it found that the organ specimen he later sent to the lab was different to what had been originally stated in a form signed before the operation.

The form stated samples of the kidney tumour would be sent for inspection, to determine whether it was malignant or benign.

Teoh said he had requested an amendment to the content of the form after the surgery, but a pathologist responsible for the examination refused to allow it.

“That’s why the [lab test] report said it was a kidney surgery but in fact it was a spleen removal,” he said.

He added that he had written a report to explain the changes made to the surgery, at the request of the hospital, after the case was reported to the department.

According to the private hospital, the patient was discharged on April 16.

Teoh, who was then a visiting urologist at the institution, had been suspended from practising at the hospital.

Dr Anthony Lee Kai-yiu, a former chair of the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association, said other medical staff present at the surgery should have known whether Teoh was removing the patient’s spleen intentionally, because Teoh would have needed to tell them so they could help.

“You can’t just ask the pathologists to make changes to the documents,” said Lee, a medical director at the private Union Hospital.

“What needs to be made clear is when did [Teoh] ask the pathologists to make the changes. If the request was made before the spleen was sent to be examined, the hospital’s records should have proved it.”

On whether Teoh should have continued to remove the kidney tumour, Lee said it depended on the patient’s condition.

St Paul’s Hospital said on Thursday it had no further comment regarding Teoh’s claims.

Teoh was suspended from practice for six months by the Medical Council in 2008 after being found guilty of claiming consultation fees from an insurance company without actually offering consultation to a patient.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.