Court dismisses man's suit against SGH and surgeon over failed op

Mr Andrew Chua, who was paralysed from the waist down because of a slipped disc, lost his medical negligence suit on Tuesday against the hospital and the orthopaedic surgeon who operated on him. He now has to pay costs to the lawyers repres
Mr Andrew Chua, who was paralysed from the waist down because of a slipped disc, lost his medical negligence suit on Tuesday against the hospital and the orthopaedic surgeon who operated on him. He now has to pay costs to the lawyers representing SGH and surgeon Yue Wai Mun. -- ST FILE PHOTO

A PART-TIME law firm assistant who sought $1 million from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and one of its surgeons, after an operation there failed to reverse his paraplegia, now has to pay two sets of legal costs after the High Court dismissed his case.

Mr Andrew Chua, 54, underwent the operation in 2007 after a slipped disc pressing on his spinal cord left him paralysed from the waist down. When his condition did not improve afterwards, he filed a lawsuit in October 2012, claiming negligence.

He claimed that orthopaedic surgeon Yue Wai Mun was wrong to have operated on him from the back and did not tell him he could have also been operated on from the front. He also said Dr Yue failed to order an MRI scan after the operation.

In a 71-page written judgment released on Monday, High Court Judge Woo Bih Li questioned why Mr Chua had continued to sue both the hospital and Dr Yue when a claim against either would have sufficed. Allegations against the hospital were dropped on the hearing's first day.

The judge also criticised two expert witnesses called by Mr Chua - Dr Chang Wei Chun and Dr Timothy Lee - calling their testimonies "illogical and unconvincing" and "confusing and unreliable".

The two surgeons had told Mr Chua that his spinal cord was still compressed and recommended a second operation, which they did at Gleneagles Hospital 20 days after his original procedure. The second one, done from the front, also failed to fix the problem. However, by 2012, Mr Chua could walk with difficulty using a walking frame.

Justice Woo said expert witnesses should take more care to ensure that they do not take part in litigation "just to do a favour for one party or to earn a fee" but rather because they genuinely believe the opinions they express. "This litigation has highlighted the importance of adequately preparing one's case," added Justice Woo. "The many shifts in Andrew's case did not reflect well on him and especially his professional advisers."

Mr Chua, who appeared in court in a wheelchair and was represented by Mr Ramasamy Chettiar, now faces the prospect of paying Dr Yue's lawyers from Rodyk & Davidson and SGH's lawyers from Legal Clinic. Costs will be assessed at a later date.

Commenting through his lawyer Lek Siang Pheng, Dr Yue said he felt vindicated by the judgment.

"It is regrettable that Andrew had decided to sue, despite medical literature and independent expert opinion provided to him beforehand showing that the treatment and care at SGH was appropriate," he said.

selinal@sph.com.sg