Police seek warrants in baby-drop scandal

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Police seek warrants in baby-drop scandal

Police revealed on Monday that they requested a detention warrant for two doctors of the CHA Medical Center in Bundang District, Gyeonggi, last Friday over allegations that they concealed information about a newborn baby’s death in 2016.

The investigation was started in July 2018 when the police received a report that claimed that the death was caused by a doctor dropping the newborn while carrying the child to an intensive care unit. After collecting evidence on the incident, Seoul Police requested a detention warrant for two doctors, the physician in charge of the delivery and the physician in charge of the gynecology clinic - who was also the vice president of the hospital - for concealing information on the baby’s death.

They are suspected of issuing falsified medical certificates by reporting the cause of death as disease, destroying evidence and concealing the incident. There were traces of a fracture and bleeding in an ultrasound scan of the baby’s brain, but the parents were not informed of the fall, according to police.

Police are currently investigating whether the hospital was aware of the incident and participated in concealing information about it.

Police submitted documents seized from the hospital to the Korea Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency (Kmdmaa) in October 2018 and requested it assess the cause of death and whether the hospital was to blame. The Kmdmaa gave its report to the police on Feb. 25.

“There is the possibility that the deceased baby died of shock due to a massive hemorrhage that is caused by reduced hemoglobin,” said a source who works at the Kmdmaa. “Because we could not conduct an autopsy, we cannot assess the direct, main cause of death.”

The baby was cremated after its death without an autopsy because the medical team in charge concluded that the death was due to a disease. The Kmdmaa found the baby’s death certificate, which says the cause of death was due to disease, “inappropriate,” according to the source.

As there were external injuries and hemorrhage to the baby, the source said that the Kmdmaa believes the possibility of “unnatural death” cannot be eliminated, but there was no mention of it in the baby’s medical chart. A radiologist’s opinion about the baby’s ultrasound scan was also missing, according to the source.

“In times of emergency, radiologists occasionally give their opinion orally, but the results need to be written by hand,” said the Kmdmaa worker. “We don’t think that [the radiologist] didn’t write it, but that it was erased.”

The CHA Medical Center acknowledged Monday that the baby was dropped, but claimed that it was not the cause of death. The hospital claimed there were multiple factors in the baby’s death, such as its premature delivery by cesarean section and its low weight.

“The mother was seven months into her pregnancy and the baby was only 1.13 kilograms [2.49 pounds] in its delivery,” said an employee of the CHA Medical Center.

The hospital worker acknowledged that it was wrong not to inform the parents of the newborn about the drop.

“We have found out that there was a consultation between the physician in charge of the operation and the vice president,” said the employee.

Police booked the doctor who dropped the baby back in 2016. Including the doctor accused of dropping the baby and the two doctors accused of concealing the incident, a total of nine people are being investigated.

BY RHEE ESTHER, KIM JUNG-YEON AND JUNG MYUNG-SUK [jung.myungsuk@joongang.co.kr]
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