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Family, hospital deny guilt in dog-bite death

Oct 26,2017
After it was found that the woman who was bitten by Super Junior member Choi Si-won’s dog had died of blood poisoning by the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium, both the hospital that treated her and Choi’s family are denying they were responsible for the infection.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is designated by the World Health Organization as one of the top three pathogens in critical need of new antibiotics. It thrives in warm, moist environments and can be found on unsterilized medical tools or in bathrooms or swimming pools.

“Serious Pseudomonas infections usually occur in people in the hospital and/or with weakened immune systems,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website. “Infections of the blood, pneumonia, and infections following surgery can lead to severe illness and death in these people. In hospitals, where the most serious infections occur, Pseudomonas can be spread on the hands of health care workers or by equipment that gets contaminated and is not properly cleaned.”

According to the U.S. CDC, some 400 people die of infection from multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa each year.

Choi’s family recently submitted a medical record to authorities indicating that the dog did not carry the bacteria. The hospital has told media outlets it is unlikely Kim was infected during earlier treatments at the hospital because her stay was too short.

The woman, a 53-year-old surnamed Kim who owned the Korea restaurant chain Hanilkwan, was bitten on her shin by Choi’s French bulldog on Sept. 30 in the elevator of Choi’s apartment in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. She visited Inje University Seoul Paek Hospital in central Seoul that day and again two days later to receive disinfection treatments.

Then, on the morning of Oct. 6, Kim visited the hospital again, saying she had trouble breathing and was coughing up blood. The hospital treated her, but her condition did not improve and she died at 5:10 p.m. The medical staff recorded the cause of death as septic shock. Kim’s family have told media outlets they do not want an investigation.

“Legal action will not bring back my mother,” Kim’s son told Sports Chosun. “If fighting could, I would do it for 10 or 20 years. But do you think my mother would want that? I don’t think so. And I know her best. They [Choi’s family] apologized multiple times and I accepted it.”

However, Kim’s relative told Hankyoreh that “the dog tried to bite Kim last year, and that time she was not bitten but her clothes were torn,” and some are saying the authorities must investigate.

“There have been reports that the dog used to bite people a lot,” said Lim Ji-young, lawyer and spokeswoman of the Korean Bar Association. “If so, authorities can investigate without a request from the victim’s family because that increases the gravity of the involuntary manslaughter charge.”

A resident of the apartment complex where Choi lives also told JTBC last week, “the security guard was also bitten by the dog.”

Lee Teuk, a member of the boy band Super Junior, had also posted on his Instagram in 2015 that the dog bit him. “Ugly dog .?.?. it bit me,” he wrote. “Good luck with it, Si-won.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG, LEE GA-YOUNG AND CHAE HYE-SEON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]