news.asiaone.com, Wed, Mar 31, 2010
HONG KONG - A British author who accused Hong Kong
medical staff of racism after his Indian-Malaysian wife died said
Wednesday the city's Hospital Authority had agreed to pay him a
"substantial sum" to settle the case.
Martin Jacques, author of best-seller "When China Rules the World",
said that staff at the Ruttonjee Hospital failed to give timely
treatment to his wife, Harinder Veriah, because of her race.
She died following an epileptic fit in 2000. Jacques launched a
medical negligence lawsuit against the Hospital Authority in 2003. But
he reached a settlement Wednesday, one day before the hearing was due to
start in the High Court.
demonstrated that the Hospital Authority was neither willing nor able to
defend their treatment of my wife. Hari's death was entirely
unnecessary and utterly avoidable,'" he said.
The author said he was bound by the settlement agreement to keep the
terms confidential. Jacques said that his solicitor wife, then 33,
complained to him that she was "at the bottom of the pile" because she
was the only Indian in the hospital, while everyone else was Chinese.
"I have always believed that if Hari had been white or Chinese she
would be alive today." The authority said in a statement Wednesday there
was no medical negligence in the treatment of Veriah.
The hospital "has repeatedly and categorically denied that Ms Veriah
was discriminated against," the statement said. "However, we believe
that the settlement entered into is in the interest of all the parties."
A Hong Kong inquest held in 2000 heard that Veriah was admitted to
hospital in a stable condition. Her condition later deteriorated as her
blood-oxygen level dropped. She died following a cardiac arrest. The
coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes and cleared
hospital staff of any negligence.
Jacques' accusation of prejudice against his wife sparked a debate
about racism in the former British colony. On his return to London in
2002, Jacques secured a second inquest in Britain.
The British coroner concluded that serious questions had to be raised
about the quality of care she received. At that time, Britain's Foreign
and Commonwealth Office cited the case of Veriah as it called on the
Hong Kong government to usher in a law against racial discrimination.
The city introduced anti-racial discrimination laws in 2008, following
years of campaigning by rights and minority groups.