Medical Negligence Case Settled

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority has agreed to pay a substantial sum in final settlement of the action brought by Martin Jacques, the author of the international best-seller ‘When China Rules the World’, and his 11 year-old son Ravi over the death of his wife, Harinder Veriah, in the Ruttonjee Hospital on January 2nd 2000. The settlement was approved by the High Court this morning.

The inquest in November 2000, at which Jacques reported that his wife, an Indian-Malaysian, had complained to him about being “bottom of the pile” in the hospital, acted as the catalyst for a major public campaign in support of anti-racist legislation which eventually culminated in the introduction of the first-ever such law in Hong Kong in July 2008.

Harinder Veriah suffered a grand mal epileptic fit at 1am on January 1st 2000 and was admitted to the Ruttonjee Hospital. She suffered a further fit the following morning and died shortly afterwards. Jacques has always insisted that clinical negligence was responsible for her death.
Martin Jacques said:

“The settlement demonstrated that the Hospital Authority was neither willing nor able to defend their treatment of his wife. Hari’s death was entirely unnecessary and utterly avoidable. The hospital succeeded in turning what is a relatively commonplace event in the lives of many into a human catastrophe.
Hari complained to me on the last occasion I saw her in the hospital that she was ‘bottom of the pile’ there. It was her way of saying that she was suffering racial discrimination. I have always believed that if Hari had been white or Chinese she would be alive today. It is tragic that the care of those who are ill can be prejudiced by their colour. But as Hari found during her fourteen months in Hong Kong, racism is endemic to Hong Kong society. It affects the behaviour and attitude of every section of society, including hospital professionals.

I am very pleased that two years ago Hong Kong introduced anti-racist legislation. It is a positive recognition of the need to confront the problem. The legislation is extremely weak and inadequate and represents only a baby step. But first steps often are only baby steps. The next battle must be to toughen the legislation and make sure that it is enforced.

To achieve some semblance of justice for Hari has taken ten unbelievably painful years. Against all odds, our arguments about negligence and prejudice have been vindicated.
I would like to thank our lawyers in the UK, notably Christopher Gibson QC and Frances Swaine from Leigh Day, who was a wonderful support throughout, and Raymond Leung and Patrick Burke in Hong Kong for their unstinting hard work and commitment. I am very grateful to the Hong Kong Legal Aid Department for its invaluable support of my son Ravi in this action”.

Martin Jacques flew into Hong Kong on Monday and was present at court for the settlement.