Navy cadet’s death: Lawyers say post-mortem ‘never released’

Navy cadet trainee Soosaimanicckam Joseph who died in May while serving at the Armed Forces Hospital in Lumut. (Twitter pic)

PETALING JAYA: The lawyers for the family of late Navy cadet trainee Soosaimanicckam  Joseph today rubbished claims by the Perak Health Department that his post-mortem report was presented to his family.

In a statement, Zaid Malek and Mahajoth Singh from Lawyers for Liberty said the claims by the Health Department and the Seri Manjung hospital where the autopsy was performed earlier this year were “baseless” and “blatantly misleading”.

“What was released was only the preliminary post-mortem report, pending lab results,” they said.

“The final and conclusive post-mortem report was never released to the family and is being actively withheld from them by the authorities.”

Calling this “highly unusual and improper”, the lawyers said it was the norm as well as the family’s legal right to be given a copy of the report.

Perak Health Department director Dr Ding Lay Ming was reported as saying on Saturday that the autopsy report had been given to Soosaimanicckam’s family members who were however dissatisfied with the findings.

The family lodged a formal report through the public complaint management system at the Seri Manjung hospital near Ipoh last month, following which the hospital arranged for a meeting with them.

The meeting however did not take place as the hospital reportedly barred the lawyers from attending, saying it was not part of its standard operating procedures (SOP).

“Their request was politely rejected by the hospital because, according to SOP, the hospital need not discuss (the port-mortem findings) with any lawyers,” Ding said on Saturday.

However, the lawyers said the hospital representatives had been anything but polite and failed to show proof of any such rule.

“They were confrontational when we questioned their action to bar us from the meeting and became even more so when we decided to withdraw ourselves as a consequence of their unreasonable decision,” they said.

They said both the hospital and the Perak Health Department had failed to grasp the gravity of the situation, which must be handled transparently.

“The family deserves to know the truth of the situation.

“We can only conclude that disallowing us to be present during the meeting is to keep the family in the dark.”

They also called on the health minister to intervene and ensure that the health department releases the final and conclusive post-mortem report “without any further excuses”, and investigates those who “denied the family’s legal right” to see it.

Soosaimanicckam, 27, was pronounced dead at 1.45pm on May 19 while serving at the Armed Forces Hospital in Lumut, Perak.

He had complained of chest pain and shortness of breath after completing a physical exercise, which was part of his daily routine training at the camp.

His brother, Charles, said he received a WhatsApp message from Soosaimanicckam the night before his death claiming he and his fellow trainees were being tortured.

Preliminary findings from the post-mortem sighted by FMT showed that Soosaimanicckam died of pulmonary adema, or water in the lungs.

However, the family’s lawyers said just prior to joining the Navy in May this year, he was declared perfectly healthy by a district hospital.

Soosaimanicckam had just started training at KD Sultan Idris, the Navy’s academy at its base in Lumut, a week prior to his death.