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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Botched surgery spurs probe

Botched surgery spurs probe

THE Ministry of Health and judicial police from Russey Keo district have opened investigations into the death of a pregnant woman after an operation at the Russey Keo clinic. Sim Harn, 37, died at Calmette Hospital on Tuesday after undergoing an operation to remove a miscarried child from her womb.

Chan Sahuth, deputy police chief of Russey Keo district, said Thursday that authorities questioned the clinic’s owner and staff at their premises in Russey Keo’s Kilometre 6 commune after he received a complaint from the victim’s family.

Clinic staffers, he said, “admit they received US$120 from Sim Harn and her husband to remove their dead 4-month-old foetus and save the mother’s life”. Sim Harn bled to death after she was sent to Calmette for emergency treatment.

The victim’s relatives say the death was a result of negligence. Sim Harn’s husband, Buth Vuthear, 33, said staff at the Russey Keo clinic were guilty of misconduct. “I don’t think they have skills for these operations, but they tried to operate on my wife anyway to remove my dead baby from her body,” he said.

After his allegations reached the Ministry of Health, the clinic offered him $1,000 to withdraw the complaint, Buth Vuthear said. “We had no choice. Because we are poor, we agreed to take it to make my wife a funeral ceremony,” he said.

Clinic owner Hong Sok Heng and doctor Em Sokhom, who performed the surgery, could not be reached on Thursday, but one doctor who asked not to be named said staff had fought to save Sim Harn’s life.

“We are very sorry for the victim’s family,” the doctor said, adding that the clinic’s staff members had done all they could to save the mother and adhered to all necessary “health regulations and professional ethics”.

Som Sophorn, chief of the Russey Keo Judicial Police office, said that although the victim and the clinic owner had reached a financial settlement, the case had already been sent to prosecutors at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, who will continue the investigation.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said the ministry would investigate the case thoroughly as part of its crackdown on unregistered private clinics and unprofessional medical practice.

“We will close all private clinics in Cambodia that lack licences from the ministry and other relevant departments, as well as fining any doctors and nurses in cases where they treat patients without obeying professional health ethics and cause the loss of the patient’s life,” he said.

“We cannot save 100 percent of patients’ lives, but we must not cause patients to die through negligence.” He said that he was awaiting a report on the incident.

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