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Estate of woman who died after late cancer diagnosis by CGH wins 5% increase in damages to S$343,000

SINGAPORE — The Court of Appeal on Monday (Nov 29) increased by about 5 per cent the award of damages to the estate of a woman who died in 2019 of lung cancer, which the Changi General Hospital (CGH) was found to have been negligently late in diagnosing.

Estate of woman who died after late cancer diagnosis by CGH wins 5% increase in damages to S$343,000

The late Noor Azlin Abdul Rahman pictured during her hospital treatment. She died in 2019, aged 39, after a court ruled that Changi General Hospital negligently failed to diagnose her cancer in a timely manner.

  • The Court of Appeal has awarded the late Noor Azlin Abdul Rahman’s estate S$343,020.61, up from the initial S$326,620.61
  • This is the sum Changi General Hospital has to pay to Noor Azlin, who died in 2019 of lung cancer which the hospital was found to be negligently late in diagnosing
  • The sum awarded is still far short of the S$13.5 million claimed during the appeal
  • Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang there had been various failures to present the evidence necessary to support “otherwise viable claims”

 

SINGAPORE — The Court of Appeal on Monday (Nov 29) increased by about 5 per cent the award of damages to the estate of a woman who died in 2019 of lung cancer, which the Changi General Hospital (CGH) was found to have been negligently late in diagnosing.

This means that the estate of the late Noor Azlin Abdul Rahman will receive S$343,020.61, up from the S$326,620.61, which was what the High Court ordered the hospital to pay the estate in January this year for medical expenses, her pain and suffering, among other categories of damages.

Despite the increase, the sum awarded is still far short of the S$13.5 million claimed by the estate during the appeal.

The main reasons for the increase awarded were the appeal court’s acceptance of claims for transport expenses and Noor Azlin’s loss of marriage prospects.

In February 2019, Noor Azlin won a case against CGH for not detecting her lung cancer earlier.

If not for CGH’s negligence, she would have been diagnosed and received treatment earlier, the Court of Appeal ruled then.

After that initial court victory, Noor Azlin died from the disease on April 1, 2019 in the fourth stage of her cancer, at the age of 39.

At the trial, Noor Azlin had originally claimed about S$6.7 million in general damages.

Her brother, the executor of the estate, later more than doubled the amount and sought about S$13.5 million in total damages during a six-day trial last year to assess the damages.

The hospital's position was that the estate was entitled to S$20,800.

Earlier this year, the appellants — Noor Azlin’s estate and her brother — filed an appeal against the High Court's decision on the damages, which was heard by the Court of Appeal.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF

In delivering his judgement on Monday, Justice Andrew Phang said the court was aware that the award of S$343,020.61 “may seem inadequate when juxtaposed against the tragic and irreversible consequences of CGH’s negligence”.

That said, the judge said it is unquestionable that the court is bound to make a formal judgement on the basis of both the pleaded claims before it and the evidence presented.

“In almost all instances, the burden of proof necessarily lies on the party seeking to vindicate his claim,” Justice Phang said.

In this case, the award of damages has been limited, not by the merits of Noor Azlin’s case, but by the way in which her case has been advanced.

Justice Phang said that there had been various failures to present the evidence necessary to support “otherwise viable claims”.

“Quite inexplicably, Ms Azlin’s case before the judge and on appeal is being advanced on the basis that she is alive. Consequently, the appellants have not sought leave to amend their pleadings to reflect the heads of claim that are consonant with Ms Azlin’s death.”

Justice Phang added that these deficiencies were made known to the counsel for the appellants, Mr Vijay Kumar Rai, a year before the start of the Appellate Division hearing in August last year.

The judge also explained the reasons for increasing the award, which came from two categories of damages — loss of marriage prospects and post-writ transport expenses from 2015 to April 1, 2019.

Justice Phang said that the court was allowing the appellant’s appeal on loss of marriage prospects and awarded Noor Azlin’s estate S$6,000.

The High Court had previously given reasons for not awarding damages in this category, for example, it was not unheard of for couples to tie the knot before one partner dies from a serious illness such as cancer.

Another reason was that Noor Azlin’s then-boyfriend had testified that although she had raised the topic of marriage a few times in 2013 and early 2014, nothing had been planned “because of the instability of his work”.

Justice Phang said that the “inevitability of Ms Azlin’s early and imminent death when her cancer reached stage 4 makes it reasonable to say that she had lost all prospects of marriage as a result of CGH’s negligence”.

In allowing the appellants’ appeal for Noor Azlin’s post-writ transport expenses in part, he awarded S$10,400 for transport expenses beginning from October 2016 when the clinical trial ended, until the date of her death on April 1, 2019.

There was no previous amount awarded to this category and Justice Phang said the High Court had rightly observed that there was no evidence to show that Noor Azlin had incurred the claimed sum of S$37,500 in transport expenses from January 2015 to March 2019.

“That said, logic and common sense would suggest that some transport expenses must have been incurred,” he added.

Related topics

court medical negligence CGH appeal damages cancer

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