Mon, Dec 22, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Family of patient who died after fire threatens to sue

LEFT BEHIND? The cancer patient, surnamed Chang, was undergoing a relatively minor surgery when a fire broke out near the operating room on Wednesday

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The daughter of a cancer patient who died after a fire broke out last week at National Taiwan University Hospital said yesterday she would sue the hospital for leaving her father at the scene of the fire to die from burns and smoke inhalation.

The esophageal cancer patient, surnamed Chang, was undergoing surgery on Wednesday night when a fire broke out near the operating rooms. The hospital said he was rushed to the intensive care ward of the hospital, where doctors urgently tried to revive him, but he died shortly after midnight.

At a press conference yesterday, Chang’s daughter accused four surgeons and four nurses of fleeing the scene of the fire without rescuing her father, who was anesthetized and unconscious at the time.

In an initial report, prosecutors said Chang suffered burns on 20 percent of his body and died from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Chang’s daughter said she never would have imagined that her father’s endoscopic surgery, a relatively simple procedure, would lead to his death.

“[My father] still had many good years ahead of him. His doctor also promised he would take good care of him. Who would have thought that today we would be seeing his cold body,” she said, while holding back tears.

She said she wanted to know how hospital personnel could abandon her father.

“He only had 30 to 40 minutes on his emergency oxygen mask ... How could he survive if they didn’t come for him until an hour later?” she said.

Chang’s daughter said that if the prosecutors’ initial report was correct and her father died of smoke inhalation, Chang’s family members “would not be able to accept this” and would sue the hospital.

Hospital Vice Superintendent Wang Ming-jiuh (王銘鉅) said that hospital personnel did everything they could to rescue Chang from the fire. The reason that another patient, who was also being operated on when the fire broke out, survived was because his operating room was closer to the escape route, he said.

Prosecutors will perform an autopsy on Chang tomorrow to determine the exact cause of death.

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