Hong Kong authorities are investigating the death of a 75-year-old man after a patient care assistant who works at the hospital he was in allegedly put a shower head up his anus during a shower.
The patient surnamed Wong suffered from an end-stage renal failure and was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital in December 2017 due to a viral infection. The family of the victim said he was in good spirits before the incident and that he was expected to be discharged on June 27, according to South China Morning Post.
But the patient complained to the staff at the hospital’s medical rehabilitation ward that a “hard object,” believed to be a shower head, was repeatedly inserted into his anus during a shower on June 23, according to the hospital’s statement released to the public on Tuesday.
Wong’s eldest son was informed about his father’s bleeding anus in the afternoon of June 23, but the hospital staff did not go into specific details about what caused it. He later learned from his father, who remembered “crying out in pain,” that a hard object “the length of one’s palm” was inserted into his rectum.
“The caretaker told him that it was normal, and repeated [the procedure] another five to six times,” the son added, further noting that his father was told the procedure would help with his constipation.
It was revealed through a colonoscopy examination by a surgeon that Wong’s rectum had been perforated. His condition continued to deteriorate and he died on June 24.
“The hospital understands that during the communication process between medical staff and the patient and his family, experiences that are not ideal and unpleasant had occurred,” the hospital said in an apology to the family on Wednesday night. “We apologize and expresses deep condolences to the patient’s relatives.”
When the hospital was asked about what tools could be used to ease up a patient’s constipation, representatives replied that it could involve the use of drugs, fingers and soft plastic tubes, Wong’s son said.
However, Lau Kowk-fan, the lawmaker assisting the family with the case, discovered that there was no official record of the procedure performed on Wong.
Lawmaker and urologist Kwok Ka-ki said that hospitals typically treat constipation with oral laxatives. If that method fails, doctors would then proceed to do other methods such as colonic irrigation.
“Colonic irrigations are usually done by nurses, and would not be done during shower, as it requires the patient to lie down on a bed,” Kwok said, further explaining that the procedure involves the use of soft plastic tubes to pump laxative into the patient’s rectum.
He continued that under normal circumstances, both of these procedures would not cause any harm to the patient.
The hospital stated that Wong declined to go through with an urgent operation after the perforation was discovered during the colonoscopy.
The hospital staff told the family that the operation to stop the bleeding was a high-risk procedure, with Wong’s chance of survival “less than half.” Wong told his family not to go on with the operation and urged them to fight for justice instead.
The family wants to honor Wong’s wishes and will not rest until they get justice, according to Lau, who is also a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
“Whether murder or manslaughter was involved in the incident, we will pursue to the very end,” he said.
The hospital is now cooperating with the authorities in the investigation. No arrests have been made so far.