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CORONAVIRUS/Court rejects state compensation claim over toddler's COVID-19 death

07/21/2023 11:29 PM
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The man bringing the state compensation case for the death of his 2-year-old boy (front, left) speaks to reporters about his reactions to the court
The man bringing the state compensation case for the death of his 2-year-old boy (front, left) speaks to reporters about his reactions to the court's decision in New Taipei on Friday. CNA photo July 21, 2023

Taipei, July 21 (CNA) The New Taipei District Court on Friday rejected a claim for state compensation from the father of a 2-year-old boy who died from complications related to COVID-19 following an 81-minute wait for an ambulance last April.

In a press release, the district court said that it had rejected the claim on the grounds that the plaintiff, surnamed Lin (林), had not provided medical data to establish a causal relationship between his son's death and government officials' handling of the ambulance request.

For a claim of state compensation to be established, the case should involve government officials infringing the freedom and rights of the people through intentional or negligent actions or failure to carry out their duties when performing their official responsibilities, the court said.

The court said it had also looked at the Control Yuan's report on this case, in which none of the four experts consulted were of the opinion that the boy could have survived hadn't there been the ambulance delay.

Following the ruling, Lin, who had argued that the delayed ambulance response may have factored into his son's death, said he would work with his lawyers to collect more evidence before lodging an appeal with the Taiwan High Court.

"I had nothing to lose. En En (恩恩) [Lin's son] was gone, and that was my biggest loss. I didn't win the case today, but that would in no way shake my determination to uncover the truth" behind the 81 minutes wait for an ambulance, Lin said.

Lin's son was the first child in Taiwan to die from COVID-19 on April 19, 2022. He developed severe COVID-19 symptoms and fell into a coma at home in Zhonghe District, New Taipei on April 14, just as COVID-19 cases in the country were beginning to surge.

According to the results of an investigation into the case by the now-disbanded Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which were released on July 5 last year, En En's mother first called the city's Fire Department to request an ambulance for her son at 5:59 p.m. on April 14.

The New Taipei government dispatched an ambulance at 7:06 p.m. and the ambulance arrived at En En's home at 7:20 p.m. and the hospital at 7:27 p.m., according to the report.

According to the phone records between the city's Fire Department and the Department of Health, the Zhonghe District Health Center and other agencies related to their handling of the ambulance request, the Fire Department was not able to contact the Department of Health, which served at the time as the city's ambulance dispatch center, to arrange an ambulance until 6:25 p.m.

The phone records were leaked to the media in June last year, following Lin's failed requests the previous month to demand access to the records, prompting the CECC to probe into the case.

The hospital said at that time that the boy died of brain stem encephalitis resulting from septicemia that was triggered by the COVID-19 infection, attributing the cause of his death to the rapid deterioration of his condition after he developed severe symptoms.

Medical authorities have never determined whether a faster response to the ambulance request might have changed the boy's outcome.

In November, Lin filed a compensation lawsuit against the New Taipei city government, the city's Fire Department and the Department of Health, after his demand for a symbolic NT$1 in compensation from each of the three agencies was rejected by the government in September.

In a statement in September, New Taipei authorities said its team that reviewed Lin's requests for compensation felt the agencies made every effort to save En En in accordance with the epidemic control measures then in place and were not found to be negligent in their actions.

(By Sunrise Huang and Shih Hsiu-chuan)


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