The husband of a Council of Agriculture (COA) official who fell into a vegetative state because of hospital negligence will be awarded a total of NT$42.5 million (US$1.466 million) after a court ruling on Friday.
The court granted the husband NT$10.5 million. When added to the NT$32 million he was awarded in 2007, the total has set a record for medical litigation in Taiwan.
The court said in its ruling that Ho Wei-chuang (何維莊), a council official, had gone to the Taipei Hospital Branch for Women and Children in December 1996 to have her uterus removed because of a fibromyoma.
Anesthetist Fu Shih-huei (傅世慧) found during the anesthetic process that the 48-year-old Ho had trouble breathing. However, the hospital failed to do a timely tracheotomy to help her breathe, causing her to enter a vegetative state. Ho died in April this year.
The anesthetist was sentenced to six months in jail, but was granted probation for two years.
Ho’s husband, Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗), a professor at National Taiwan University, filed a civil suit asking for NT$68 million in compensation.
After a decade of litigation, the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the hospital and the anesthetist should pay NT$23 million in compensation to Lai. The sum was increased to NT$32 million after interest was added.
Lai filed an additional lawsuit, demanding that the hospital and doctors pay the fees for taking care of his wife, her medical bills and daily necessities.
The Taiwan High Court ruled that the hospital should pay an additional NT$10.5 million. The hospital appealed, but the Supreme Court rejected the appeal.
Upon learning the news, a spokesman for the hospital said it would respect the ruling.
The hospital’s department of -public relations director Chen Chia-chieh (陳家傑) said the hospital has paid out the first compensation package of NT$32 million in stages. He would not reveal in how many stages or the amount paid for each installment, saying the hospital could not reveal such details because it infringed on the client’s privacy.
He said Ho’s condition fluctuated after she went into a vegetative state, and that she died because of multiple organ failure in April.
“The hospital lamented the development of the incident,” Chen said.
The anesthetist involved in the incident left the hospital in 1998, Chen said.