Three doctors were sentenced to prison terms for making misdiagnosis and causing the death of a child who visited hospitals four times because of a stomachache.
The Seongnam branch of Suwon District Court Wednesday passed a sentence of one year and six months on one of the three doctors indicted with the charge of professional negligence resulting in death. It also handed down the sentence of one year, respectively, upon the other two and put them under court custody.
The boy was hospitalized at a hospital in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, complaining of stomachache in May 2013.
|Choi Dae-jin (right), president of Korea Medical Association, and Bang Sang-hyuk, KMA vice president, take tonsure in protest to the imprisonment of three doctors for leading a child to death because of misdiagnosis, in front of Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Court, south of Seoul, on Thursday.|
An X-ray examination of the child showed symptoms of pneumonia accompanied by hydrothorax in his lower left lung, but the doctors failed to recognize it, and diagnosed it as the pain resulting from constipation, without confirming the need for additional examination or surgery.
And they only focused on relieving constipation during the boy’s visits to the hospital four times.
On June 9 that year, however, the boy died at a nearby hospital of hematogenic shock caused by diaphragmatocele and hemothorax.
The doctors said, “When we diagnosed the child, it was uncertain whether he had diaphragmatocele, and even if we made an additional examination, we could not predict or prevent diaphragmatocele” denying a causal relationship between the boy’s death and their acts.
But the court judged the doctors committed faults, meting out prison sentences and put them under its custody.
“As the symptoms were shown in the X-ray photo, they were not dubious but obvious ones, and pleural fluid that could be seen in the photo suggested the patient had a grave disease,” the court said. “If the doctors had realized abnormal symptoms, it could have led to more positive attempts to find out causes and additional tests. Considering all this, we can acknowledge a causal relationship with the death and their professional negligence.”
It went on to say, “Also, the doctors failed to save the life of an elementary school student because of their negligence in the conduct of business. Considering they could have saved the young life if one of the physicians had made a correct diagnosis, they committed a grievous crime.”
The medical community strongly protested against the ruling, describing it as unfair.
A specialist in home medicine said, “The boy’s case is very rare, and the chances of finding would be only 0.1 percent. It is very unfair to force doctors to take full responsibility for this kind of incident.”
Korea Medical Association also held a protest rally in front of the branch court from 11 a.m. Thursday.
The executive board of KMA denounced the ruling holding pickets with phrases like “Court custody of doctors is the death of physicians’ human rights,” “Court arrests of medical accidents encourage defensive treatment,” and “Arrest not just misdiagnosis but misjudgment.”
KMA President Choi Dae-jip and its standing vice president, Bang Sang-hyuk, tonsured their heads in protest.
“Doctors do their best in diagnosis with good intentions but can bring about bad results sometimes, and that’s the essential limitations of medical activities,” Choi said. “However, the court gave prison sentences and arrested them based on only wrong results. We can never accept such a ruling.”
He went on to say, “We doctors can’t help but throw a fundamental question of whether we are necessary for society. If the s0ociety needs physicians, it should treat them in similar ways. Or we will disappear quietly. Who will make diagnoses if the society does not need us and put us behind bars taking issue with bad results?”
Stressing that KMA will take strong measures by upgrading its intensity, Choi said, “We will raise an issue with the latest case in our ways and solve it in our ways.”
KMA Vice President Bang also said, “This society is not accepting doctors’ sense of mission to save patients as such. It demands them to be omniscient and omnipotent,”
He continued to say, “Doctors cannot practice medicine properly in a society like ours. One hundred and thirty thousand doctors, this is time to spring to our feet.”
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>