Seoul hospital raided after infant deaths

A hearse carrying one of the dead infants preparing to leave the hospital in Seoul yesterday.
A hearse carrying one of the dead infants preparing to leave the hospital in Seoul yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • Seoul police yesterday raided a local university hospital where four newborns died one after another in a span of less than 90 minutes, amid suspicion of medical malpractice.

Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency searched the premises of Ewha Womans University Medical Centre in Mokdong, western Seoul, to confiscate potential evidence, including incubators, injection tools and medical records, the agency said.

The move came as the National Forensic Service (NFS) and health authorities were scrambling to figure out what caused the babies to die abruptly last Saturday evening.

Preliminary autopsies have found no evident reason for their deaths except abdominal bloating. Results from full autopsies will take up to a month, the NFS said.

On Monday, the Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said that at least three babies may have been infected with Citrobacter freundii, a bacterium that is common in adults but can cause respiratory, urinary and blood infections in infants.

The deceased were among 16 premature babies in the intensive care unit. Three of the four were in the same row and the other was in the next row in a section of the same unit. Each row has three incubators and each section has two rows.

Police investigators also plan to summon six doctors and five nurses to check how the ICU was operated and whether they administered recommended dosages to the babies.

Forensic doctors on Monday raised the possibility of an overdose of IV fluid. But they cautioned that the cause can be determined only after the results of various post-mortem tests have been released. The hospital has separately formed an investigative unit to probe the incident.

Meanwhile, funerals for the four babies were held yesterday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Seoul hospital raided after infant deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe