American man demands compensation for eye surgery side effect

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An overseas Vietnamese has asked the Saigon Eye Hospital to compensate him with US$85,000 for a cataract operation that has cost him his cornea.


But the Saigon Eye Hospital has refused the demand, saying the demand was unreasonable since they had done nothing wrong, the local newswire Vnexpress reported.


The compensation includes the hospital fees, air tickets, and the money he could have earned during the time spent on treatment over ten months, Huynh Huu Thong said in the petition sent to the newswire.


Thong said he had to go to different hospitals, including those back home in the US, after getting operated at a branch of the Saigon Eye Hospital in District 1.


The 50-year-old with cataract in his right eye was admitted to the hospital on June 5.


Doctors decided to apply phacoemulsification, the most common and advanced cataract surgery technique to date.


He was told to pay VND7.9 million (US$417) and guaranteed that he would see light normally four hours after the operation and the eye function would be completely normal three days after.


But Thong said in the letter he was not able to see lightg four hours after the 7-minute surgery conducted by doctor Tran Pham Duy.


The next day, he was examined by another doctor at the hospital, who said his cornea had swelled. He was told to see doctor Duy but the latter said the condition was normal and set a follow-up examination for a week after.


While waiting, Thong visited another eye hospital in the city, which was not named.


Doctors at this second hospital gave him an ultrasound scan and said he had cornea dystrophy due to the operation.


They said the condition couldn't be treated in Vietnam, so Thong returned to the US, where doctors said his cornea cells were damaged by severe infection and inflammation.


He was told to have the cornea replaced.


"Then I called Vietnam and Thai Thanh Nam, general director of Saigon Eye Hospital, told me to get the treatment and bring back the medical documents to Vietnam so we can talk later," Thong told Vnexpress.


After the cornea transplant in the US, he came to the Saigon hospital but they refused to compensate him.


Tran Phuong Hanh, director of the hospital that operated on Thong's eye, told Vnexpress her doctors did nothing wrong during the operation.


Hanh said the dystrophy Thong suffered is a side-effect of cataract surgery, but rarely seen. "Doctors cannot foresee that effect. If my family member is unfortunately the victim, I would have to accept that."


Eye surgeon Duy, also deputy director of the hospital, said he didn't treat the swelling right away but waited for one week so that he could correctly diagnose the side effect.


"And Thong visited another hospital and then went straight to the US before the date for the follow-up exam," Duy said.


Hanh said Thong had signed an operation agreement which lists all the effects that may occur and the money he asked for was unreasonable.


She said Thong cannot ask the hospital to pay him based on US medical fees and income.


The hospital has decided to give Thong $8,500, Hanh said. "That's not compensation but support, since the hospital was not wrong."

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