SINGAPORE — It was reported in the local media that Mr Steven Joseph Arokiasamy, 67, and Madam Tan Kin Tee, 66, are suing the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for the actions of its senior consultant, Dr Gomathinayagam Kandasami, as well as Dr Nelson Lee, a psychiatrist in private practice.
The elderly couple is seeking an estimated $3.3 million in damages for the loss of their son, who took his own life. They accused the two psychiatrists of being negligent in treating their son, which they say led to his suicide on 7 September 2017.
They alleged that Dr Lee failed to diagnose their son with schizophrenia and wrongfully prescribed Concerta, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to him.
In his defence, Dr Lee said that the diagnosis of ADHD and bipolar disorder was reasonable in light of the symptoms and medical history of their son. There was a lack of overt and persistent psychotic symptoms supporting a diagnosis of schizophrenia, he said.
Dr Lee added that the son actually showed improvements when he was on Concerta and, for the first time in many years, managed to get a job in a warehouse in July 2015.
In May 2015, after being charged with the assault of two police officers, the couple’s son was remanded at IMH and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. About a year later, after the son was sentenced by the court to a one-year mandatory treatment order for the assault, Dr Kandasami of IMH took over the son’s care.
The couple alleged that Dr Kandasami did nothing to prevent their son from overdosing on Concerta and ignored his psychotic symptoms.
IMH said Dr Kandasami’s care and treatment of the son’s case was appropriate. His response to medication was closely monitored, and he did not show signs of psychosis, it said. But a year later, into his treatment by Dr Kandasami, the son took his own life.
Still, in court, IMH insisted that there were no red flags of imminent risk of taking his own life on the eve of the son’s suicide.
It disagreed with the couple’s assertion that the son’s death was caused by psychosis, noting that the coroner had found his fall to be a “deliberate act of suicide”, even though he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2015.
“The plaintiffs are understandably devastated, and IMH empathises with them for their loss. However, the deceased’s unfortunate demise was not the result of any negligence on the part of IMH and its doctors or staff,” said the lawyer representing IMH.
The suit was heard in the High Court on Thursday (12 Jan). The trial has been adjourned to September.
An online check shows that Dr Gomathinayagam Kandasami actually came from India originally and obtained his basic medical degree (MBBS) from the Madurai University. It is a public state university located in Madurai city, in southern Tamil Nadu, India. He later obtained MRC Psych (UK) in 2003.
Dr Kandasami subsequently obtained “Conditional Registration” status from the Singapore Medical Council in 2011 and “Full Registration” status in 2013, enabling him to work independently as a doctor in Singapore.