In a media interview published on The Straits Times (ST) on 17 Jan, a patient who had been wrongly diagnosed in the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) scandal which was revealed in Parliament last month, Stella Seah (Stella), 46 said:
“I broke down in tears as I had been suffering unnecessary pain from the medication”
In addition, she experienced hot flashes, insomnia, headaches, bone and chest pains, and giddiness during her treatment.
For those unaware, KKPH had wrongly diagnosed approximately 200 patients with the rarer form of breast cancer, HER2-positive breast cancer (instead of HER2- negative), which merited a drug called Herceptin which had other side effects.
In Parliament, last month, Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon (Koh) had dismissed the need for compensation for psychological effects caused by the unnecessary treatment.
Koh made clear that the refund of “the portion of the bills which arose from the unnecessary treatment” and the provision of “clinical and financial support for the affected patients including ongoing and follow on treatments” should be sufficient.
Koh also flatly rejected the idea of a lifetime of free healthcare stating that “to then say that this translates to a lifetime of compensation… will be a little bit too far to stretch…Most complications, if any, are transient”.
Yet, when you read patient accounts of their distress (such as Stella), one does wonder if the authorities are dismissing their added suffering with uncommon haste?
Stella said that although she had initially considered pursuing legal action against KTPH, she said she has decided to move on. “Initially, I was very upset at having to go through unnecessary treatment but, after all, we cannot go back. Life has to move on.” One could say, it couldn’t be that bad if she decided not to sue but looking at how costly and time-consuming legal action is and added to that, the emotional toil plus the fact that she is still ill from cancer, it could well be that patients decide not to sue, not because they are satisfied with their compensation but because they simply don’t have the bandwidth to pursue the matter.
In view of this, isn’t it the state’s responsibility to look after their people here and give them a good compensation to make up for their suffering instead of seemingly dismissing them as Koh did in Parliament last month?
Another patient said that KTPH reassured her the treatments would have been largely the same even if she had tested negative for HER2, save for the Herceptin prescription. While she was of the opinion that the compensation package KTPH offered covered her transport costs and the costs of the extra tests she had to go through, she thought it was sufficient.
However, she made clear that it was too early to tell if there might be any long-term effects that might emerge a few years later. and said that she hoped “that the hospital will still provide care if that were to happen.”
However, given that Koh had so rapidly dismissed the need for lifetime care, would this patient (and others like her) be taken care of if there were side effects discovered further down the line?
This might be something that MPs should address in the coming Parliamentary sessions?