KUALA LUMPUR, 5 May 2009: Missing samples. This was the highlight of the inquest into the death of local actress K Sujatha as it entered its fourth day today.
Two doctors of the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital testified that they could not confirm what actually happened to the samples taken from the actress.
First, Dr Vengkata Prathab said he ordered samples of blood, urine and gastric lavage to be taken from the actress on the first day she was warded at the hospital’s emergency ward on 19 June 2007.
“I had ordered these samples to be taken immediately after she arrived at the emergency ward. However, doctors who treated her at the normal ward did not receive the report on the tests,” he said.
Prathab agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Anselm Charles Fernandis who was assisting coroner Mohd Fauzi Che Abu that the results of the samples were very crucial to conclude conclusively that the patient died due to poisoning.
Prathab did not stop there.
He told the coroner that personally, he had a bad experience when samples taken from his mother were also reported missing.
He said that although such cases occurred occasionally, doctors should not be singled out for blame as it involved several departments of the hospital.
“In Sujatha’s case, other doctors and I focused more in giving emergency treatment to the patient,” explained Prathab.
He was testifying at the inquest into the death of Sujatha, 28, who died at the hospital in Klang on 25 June 2007, four days after admission for allegedly drinking weedkiller.
The episode of missing samples did not end there.
Medical officer Dr Lim Ai Wei testified that she had taken urine samples of Sujatha the following day, to check for traces of paraquat.
“When I failed to receive the result, the following day, I personally went to the lab (laboratory) to check what had happened. But staff at the lab claimed that they did not receive the sample from the ward where Sujatha was treated,” she explained.
The testimony from both doctors resulted in a heated exchange between Fernandis and counsel Datuk K Kumaraendran, who was representing Maika Holdings Bhd chief executive officer S Vell Paari. Kumaraendran said it was not proper blaming doctors for the missing samples.
Fernandis said he was not blaming the doctors but just only stressed a point to the coroner that in medico-legal cases like Sujatha’s, the issue of missing samples should not be taken lightly.
In reply, Kumaraendran said the inquest was not the right forum to bring up the issue, adding that the matter should be addressed to the health ministry.
Earlier, Sujatha’s youngest brother told the Coroner’s Court that he and his older brother requested doctors not to conduct a post-mortem on their sister’s body.
Surenthiran, 26, said since the cause of her death was clearly stated as paraquat poisoning in the death certificate, they had wanted to stop her body from being cut into pieces during the post-mortem.
The systems engineer with Maika Intellectual Resources, a subsidary of Maika Holdings Bhd, said he had also sought the assistance of Dr S P Sakthiveloo who is attached to the hospital, in claiming the body.
To a question by Deputy Public Prosecutor Geethan Ram Vincent who is also assisting the coroner, as to why he allowed Vell Paari to issue a press statement to say that Sujatha died due to an ovarian cyst, Surenthiran said it was his family’s request.
“My family wanted Paari to issue the statement, mainly to protect my sister’s dignity even though we are aware that the statement was not accurate and false,” he said.
He also told the coroner that he did not suspect foul play in his sister’s death or a possibility that she had committed suicide.
“I was very close to her and she had not related to me any personal problem … a few months before she passed away, she had, on occasions, complained of stomach pains,” he said.
To another question by Geethan, Surenthiran said Vell Paari paid for his studies in Australia.
The hearing continues tomorrow. — Bernama