Doctor Gets Prosecuted 12 Years After Patient's Death
The healthcare system in Nigeria is way below standard, but does that justify the high incidences of medical negligence?
The stories of medical negligence we hear about in Nigeria are always so sad and disheartening, especially when they lead to death. Not many Nigerians may know this. But there is a system in place that holds health care professionals accountable for their errors in judgement or practices. An example is when the Medical and Dental Council Of Nigeria (MDCN) set up a tribunal that arraigned Dr. Shehu Abdullahi Muhammad for his role in the death of Mrs. Maijidda Aminu.
Doctor found guilty of medical negligence
According to The Guardian, Dr Muhammad was found guilty when the case was presented at the Kano State High Court. But the Court of Appeal in Kaduna acquitted the doctor. And suggested that the case be brought before the medical council for proper trial. The MDCN Tribunal has equal jurisdictions with the regular high court. Hence its ruling can only be challenged at the Court of Appeal.
The investigative panel set up by the council said the respondent failed to attend to the deceased promptly when she started bleeding after delivery on the 21 April 2008. It added that the accused “failed to do all that was reasonable. And ought to had been done under the circumstance for her good until she died.”
The doctor, who has been on suspension since 2015, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He told the tribunal that the deceased did not bleed abnormally and was promptly attended to.
Medical Negligence In Nigeria
There are other doctors who had to face the disciplinary tribunal for alleged gross professional incompetence. Which led directly or indirectly to the death of patients under their care. Two Abuja-based doctors, Mr. Ikeji Nwabueze and Mr. Terhemba Lan, were sentenced to six months suspension from medical practice. Due to negligence that led to death of patients under their care.
The tribunal also adjourned the hearing of three other doctors, Iyoha Joseph, Obafemi Kuye and Oyewunmi Oladipo. They were alleged to have given unnecessary drugs to a three-month-old baby. And delayed necessary action, which eventually led to the baby’s death. Judgement on the cases will be decided at the next sitting on a yet-to-be determined date.
In 2016, Premium Times carried out an investigative report on medical negligence, where it revealed how surgeons in the facility were accused of puncturing the lungs of Sandra David, a 29-year-old staff of the Bank of Agriculture during a minor operation, eventually leading to her death.
What doctors in Nigeria face
Premium Times,also published a report on why medical negligence is prevalent in Nigeria. According to the president of the Nigerian Medical Association, Francis Faduyile, “total systemic failure” is responsible for cases of medical negligence in Nigerian hospitals. “We don’t have enough personnel. We don’t have enough equipment. And the government does not have enough health facilities.” Mr Faduyile said at a press briefing at the Abuja Head Office of the NMA in November, 2019. He also said that doctors see up to 120 patients daily . “By the time you are getting to half of the number, you will be very frustrated. We are all human beings and that is why in the physician’s oath, it was said that doctors shall take care of their own health too.”
But despite the poor healthcare system prevalent in the country, he agreed that there were still definite cases of medical negligence.
The ratio of doctors to patients in Nigeria is about 8 times below what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. Which is one doctor to 600 patients.
What you can do in a case of medical negligence
- Before you sue a hospital or healthcare professional or facility for negligence, it has to be proved that medical professional breached his or her duty of care.
- The law also acknowledges that medical personnel are human. And as such may not carry out their duties to 100% perfection. But must exercise a reasonable standard of care. So if you can prove that you did not receive that reasonable standard of care. And that this was the cause of your injury, then you can make a claim for compensation.
- You have a period of three years from the date the case of negligence occurred to make a claim for compensation.
- A report can also be made at the Police Station which can bring a charge against the accused medical officer, where investigation reveals gross negligence. Or where death has resulted from such negligence.
- You can also file a complaint with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for appropriate redress. It may take a while, but going by the cases highlighted today, erring healthcare professionals will be dealt with accordingly.