Police are investigating what happened to a 75-year-old Tuen Mun Hospital patient who died on Sunday after being anally penetrated while showering.
A hospital spokesperson said on Tuesday that a male patient with end-stage renal failure complained to a staff member on June 23, saying that he was anally penetrated with a solid object while in the shower.
Doctors suggested an emergency operation after discovering a 2-centimetre long wound in his rectum, but the man refused. His condition deteriorated and he died the following evening.
The son of the deceased patient, who gave his surname as Wong, held a press conference on Wednesday disputing the hospital’s version of events and accusing hospital staff of wrongdoing.
“It was not that the patient declined; he never had a choice, because the operation would mean certain death,” Wong said, referring to the emergency operation.
According to Wong, his late father required regular colon cleansing – removing feces from the intestine. Wong said that hospital staff washed his father on the morning of June 23, and called afterwards to tell him that his father was experiencing constipation and bleeding.
Wong said he went to the hospital, where his father told him one of the two staff members responsible for washing him “inserted a palm-length solid object” into his anus. He said his father cried out in pain and asked them to stop, but the staff members said it was “normal” and repeated the action five to six more times.
As for the recommended emergency procedure, Wong said the doctor and anesthesiologist both told him there was over 50 per cent chance that his father could die from the operation. Wong said he understood it to mean “it was just a question of dying sooner or later,” and wished to spare his father the pain.
Wong said his father felt wronged right before his death: “[My father] said we need to find out the truth – even if it took an autopsy, he was willing to do it.” Wong called the police on Monday.
Tuen Mun Hospital responded publicly on Thursday after meeting with Wong. Hospital Chief Executive Simon Tang Yiu-hang and Deputy Hospital Chief Executive Francis Mok Chun-keung said that the incident was “unusual” and that the actions of the staff members in question “exceeded normal medical procedures.”
Tang declined to give further details, citing the ongoing police investigation.
“The hospital will look into this incident fairly and without bias,” Tang said. “We acknowledge that Tuen Mun Hospital has room for improvement, including the communication between us and the patient’s family… Our earlier statement was worded in a way that caused distress for them. We would like to apologise for the miscommunication.”
Tang described the staff members in question as “assistants” and “support staff” – not doctors or nurses – who were responsible only for helping patients to bathe. The two staff members have been put on leave.
The matter is under investigation by the coroner and the police; no arrests have been made yet.