TTSH denies alleged negligence

Ex-patient says he would not have had surgery to treat thyroid cancer if properly advised

A hospital being sued by a former patient has defended its use of surgery to remove a suspected cancerous thyroid gland later found to be benign.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) said the patient, Mr Balasundaram Nagarajan, was found to have a tumour in his thyroid gland, and an ultrasound scan and fine-needle aspiration biopsy both showed suspicion of thyroid cancer.

Thyroid gland surgery is an important form of treatment for patients with thyroid conditions, including benign and cancerous thyroid tumours, a TTSH spokesman told The Sunday Times.

"Especially for tumours suspected to be cancerous, surgery is often the treatment of choice where the thyroid gland is removed and pathologically assessed," he added.

Mr Balasundaram, 52, had sought treatment at TTSH in 2012 for swelling and discomfort on the right side of his neck, as well as swallowing difficulties. He underwent surgery for the removal of his thyroid gland in March 2012, but was told several months later by TTSH that tissues obtained during surgery showed he did not have thyroid cancer.

Mr Balasundaram is seeking damages in the High Court from TTSH, claiming alleged negligence. High Court claims start at $250,000.

He alleged in court papers filed by his lawyer S. Palaniappan that the hospital failed to advise him adequately about treatment options, including the possibility of deferring surgery and alleged that he would not have agreed to undergo surgery on an urgent basis. He said he still suffers from the after-effects of the surgery, including mood swings, fatigue and discomfort.

TTSH is denying the claims in court documents filed, countering that the patient was seen by a specialist where the findings into his condition were discussed, including the possible diagnosis of thyroid cancer and the surgery option.

He consented to the surgery and recovered well after it in 2012, said defence papers filed by TTSH's lawyer Lek Siang Peng.

Said the TTSH spokesman: "We recognise that a thyroid tumour could eventually prove to be non-cancerous. Surgery was proposed to Mr Balasundaram only after carefully taking into consideration his tumour size, his swallowing problems and his age, considering that middle-aged men like him are often at higher risk for a more aggressive form of cancer."

He stressed the care and treatment was done after consultation and with full consent from the patient. "We understand that Mr Balasundaram has recovered from his surgery. He continues to receive medical care from doctors at TTSH. We wish him good health always."

A High Court case management meeting was held last week .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'TTSH denies alleged negligence'. Print Edition | Subscribe