Businessman sues surgeon, cancer centre for negligence

Prominent Malaysian claims he was misdiagnosed, given wrong advice

Mr Hii is suing the National Cancer Centre Singapore and surgeon Dr Ooi over his major surgery.
Mr Hii is suing the National Cancer Centre Singapore and surgeon Dr Ooi over his major surgery.

Whether a prominent Malaysian businessman believed he was suffering from pancreatic cancer before a major surgery is at the centre of a medical negligence trial which opened yesterday in the High Court.

In his lawsuit, Datuk Seri Hii Chii Kok, 56, says he was told by doctors at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) that he had cancer and was advised to remove parts of five organs.

But after the operation, tests on the removed pancreas showed that he did not have cancer.

The Kuala Lumpur-based businessman is suing surgeon London Lucien Ooi who operated on him and the NCCS, alleging that they had misdiagnosed him and given him the wrong medical advice.

But the defendants' counter is that Mr Hii was never told he had cancer. Rather, the two lesions in his pancreas were suspected to be tumours, and it was uncertain at the time if they were cancerous.

Yesterday, Mr Hii conceded on the stand that he formed the impression that the diagnosis meant cancer based on his own Internet research and the opinion of Malaysian doctors.

Mr Hii, who is managing director of the KL public-listed SEGi University group and the executive chairman of investment company HCK Capital Group, is seeking unspecified damages.

His lawyer S. Palaniappan told the court that in July 2010, Mr Hii's doctors in Malaysia advised him to go for a gallium scan at the NCCS for nodules in his lungs.

There, Mr Hii was told that the nodules were not a problem, but he had pancreatic cancer, said Mr Palaniappan. Although CT scans and MRI scans did show any corresponding mass in his pancreas and blood test results were normal, Mr Hii was told he had cancer, the lawyer added.

He was referred to Dr Ooi and underwent surgery in August 2010. After discharge, Mr Hii suffered abdominal bleeding and had two operations in Malaysia.

Dr Ooi's lawyer Edwin Tong said in his opening statement that Mr Hii had been advised that he had to balance the risks of surgery against the risk of the possible tumour spreading if he waited.

Ms Kuah Boon Theng, acting for the NCCS, said in her opening statement that Mr Hii was a well-informed patient when he was facing an uncertain diagnosis and knew the risks either way.

She said he is now seeking to blame the defendants after making a conscious informed choice.