Seoul Times 05-16-2008 17:50
14-Year-Old American Boy Dies in Sauna
By Bae Ji-sook Staff Reporter
A 14-year-old American boy died this week in a sauna in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province, on the outskirts of Daegu, however police are seemingly unable to pinpoint the cause of his death.
The tragedy took place last Sunday, when Stephanie White, her son Michael and two of her friends went to a jjimjilbang (Korean style sauna). Her son went into the male bathing room, while White and her friends went to the ladies section.
Some considerable time later, sauna staff called the mother to check on her son who was in a critical condition. When she arrived at the scene, her son had collapsed and emergency staff were placing him into an ambulance.
However, they apparently reported Michael as dead, though this was not the case. On arrival at the hospital medical staff saw this and tried to resuscitate him through cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but despite their efforts he died a few minutes later. Michael had allegedly been coughing and dry retching ― without anyone inside the sauna offering assistance ― for a long time and that could have been a contributory factor in his death, doctors said initially.
However, an autopsy showed that the cause of death was drowning. Stephanie White said quick treatment could have saved her son. She also criticized the sauna for having poor emergency measures and trying to cover up the incident; the hospital for being slow to drain Michaels' lungs of fluid; and the police for not conducting a thorough investigation and reporting the results to her.
The police apparently did not question the sauna owner, while staff there kept calling her up about the details and tried to cover up the story, she said. White also said that her son was not dead in the sauna ― as alleged by the emergency response staff ― in view of the fact that doctors tried save him at the hospital. She added that she is a certified and trained lifesaver and could have saved her son if she had been notified in time ― nobody offered Michael assistance for about an hour after he apparently started having respiratory problems.
Friends and colleagues plan to hold a vigil in front of the United States Embassy in downtown Seoul Friday and have started a fundraising campaign to finance legal fees. White may file a lawsuit against the sauna and responsible parties. Some have pointed to the Korean people's indifference as the cause of the tragedy. White lamented that its was really hard to understand why no one seemed to care about a young boy who was obviously having problems ― coughing hard for a long time ― and who then collapsed. Blogger Mike McStay said, ``What do you call it when a room full of men/boys doing their family bathing before the Buddha holiday just turn their backs on someone who's coughing and retching so bad that there's extensive damage to his throat, lungs and back of the mouth.'' firstname.lastname@example.org