In the tort of negligence, damages are awarded if the claimant can establish that he has suffered loss. While most claims for loss in the tort of negligence usually revolve around physical damage, courts have recognised losses of a non-physical nature, including claims for pure economic loss or loss of genetic affinity. Courts, however, have consistently refused to recognise claims for a loss of chance in the context of medical negligence. Simply put, a lost chance arises where negligence on the part of the doctor deprives the patient of his chances of recovery.
At the heart of Noor Azlin Binte Abdul Rahman v Changi General Hospital Pte Ltd & others  SGCA 13 is the allegation that the three named doctors who attended to patient Noor Azlin binte Abdul Rahman (“Ms Azlin”) at Changi General Hospital (“CGH”) over a four-year period, as well as CGH, were negligent. Azlin argues that their negligence delayed the detection of the malignancy which resulted in her having lung cancer, and caused her to suffer the loss of a better medical outcome. The High Court (“HC”) found that the two Accident and Emergency (“A&E”) department doctors who saw Ms Azlin did not breach their duty of care. Conversely, the HC found that CGH, as well as CGH specialist respiratory physician Dr Imran Bin Mohamed Noor (“Dr Imran”) had indeed breached their respective duties of care. The HC nonetheless dismissed Ms Azlin’s claim of negligence against them, as she was unable to show that their actions had resulted in her delayed diagnosis. On appeal, while the Court of Appeal (“CA”) upheld the HC’s decisions regarding the three doctors, it allowed her claim of negligence against CGH.