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Estate of woman who died from cancer due to negligence by CGH awarded $326k

SINGAPORE – Changi General Hospital (CGH) has been ordered to pay the estate of Ms Noor Azlin Abdul Rahman $326,620, as well as interest at 5.33 per cent, plus legal costs of $105,000 for the delay in diagnosis which caused her relapse and death from lung cancer at the age of 39 in 2019.

She died five weeks after the Court of Appeal found in her favour against CGH.

Her estate sought $13.46 million in damages while the hospital offered $20,800.

Ms Noor Azlin had gone for treatment at CGH, where X-rays of her lungs were taken in 2010 and 2011. Both times, the radiologist recommended follow-up consultation. But this did not happen.

By the time she was again referred to the hospital by a doctor from the Raffles Medical Clinic, her tumour had grown. In spite of treatment, her cancer progressed and she died on April 1, 2019.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment in February that year said: “But for CGH’s failure to diagnose her in July 2011… we find it unlikely that the lung cancer would have progressed to Stage IIA before resection.

“It was more likely than not that she would not have suffered from nodal metastasis and any consequences that may follow.”

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By the time her appeal was heard, the cancer had already spread to her brain.

Before the assessment of damages released by the High Court on Tuesday (Jan 19), her estate was awarded an interim payment of $200,000 in September 2019. The hospital failed three times to prevent this in 2020.

In deciding on the amount, Justice Belinda Ang said shortcomings in the defence’s claims “have impacted the damages recoverable”.

As examples, she said: “No evidence has been led on Ms Azlin’s expected full life expectancy. In addition, no justification has been given for the calculation of Ms Azlin’s medical expenses post-trial.” She also said that “a pleaded claim for loss of earnings has been retained when it should have been changed to a claim for loss of inheritance”.

The amount sought by her estate was also far higher than the $6.7 million Ms Azlin had originally claimed.

Justice Ang said that since Ms Noor Azlin has died – the claims for loss of future medical expenses, transport expenses, take-home earnings and CPF, and cost of nursing care have all dwindled.

The higher claim “is ostensibly making up for this shortfall”, the judge said, describing it “as simply contrived in the absence of supporting evidence, amongst other things”.

Before her death, Ms Noor Azlin, in an interview with The Straits Times, spoke about why she had pursued the case in court in spite of her terminal cancer.

She had said: “I really had to. I don’t want the same thing to happen to anyone else. I am sad it has happened to me, but I hope this can change the system so more lives can be saved.”

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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