updated 9/7/2007 11:52:11 AM ET 2007-09-07T15:52:11

A cancer patient lying on a gurney waiting to be treated was fatally bitten by a snake, a hospital in western Thailand said Friday.

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A pit viper bit the man last week at Kanchanaburi Memorial Hospital in Kanchanaburi province, 70 miles west of Bangkok. He died on Tuesday, four days after the snake bit.

Gurneys at the hospital, in a semi-rural area, usually are laid outside the hospital buildings to wait for incoming patients, and the snake apparently slithered onto the gurney when it was outdoors.

Chamni Chittriprasert, a spokesman of the Health Ministry’s Medical Science Department, said that it is rare for a person to die from a pit viper bite, but that the man’s case was fatal because his liver cancer had weakened his body.

His wife called for the hospital to take responsibility for the death.

The deputy director of the private hospital, Jindawan Phromsiriphat, called the death a regrettable accident that staff would have prevented if they could have, and said that the hospital would pay for one night of the victim’s weeklong Buddhist funeral.

She said compensation to his family had not yet been discussed.

A Health Ministry spokesman, Suphan Srithamma, said the ministry would send officials to inspect the hospital.

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