Court awards €60,000 to par­ents af­ter med­i­cal short­com­ings led to death of 18-month-old child

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

The govern­ment’s Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer and two doc­tors were or­dered to pay €60,000 in dam­ages to the par­ents of an 18-mon­thold child who died 11 years ago be­cause of short­com­ings in med­i­cal treat­ment.

The child passed away at the Emer­gency depart­ment’s Pae­di­atrics Unit at St Luke’s Hospi­tal in 2005. In ad­di­tion to short­com­ings in treat­ment, the court also noted short­com­ings in the pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion at the hospi­tal dur­ing the time in ques­tion.

The child, Mireille Portelli, was taken to hospi­tal by her par­ents a to­tal of five times, four times of which they found the Pae­di­atrics Unit shut and were forced to go to the Ac­ci­dent and Emer­gency depart­ment. They were re­peat­edly as­sured that noth­ing se­ri­ous was wrong with their child and were in­structed to go home. On her fifth visit to the hospi­tal, baby Mireille trag­i­cally lost her life while at hospi­tal.

The courts head how af­ter the baby had been ad­min­is­tered her MMR vac­cine she de­vel­oped a tem­per­a­ture of 103.7 de­grees. It tran­spired that a swelling in the neck of the baby had been ig­nored. This was caused by a throat in­fec­tion that even­tu­ally spread to her blood, caus­ing sep­ti­caemia and even­tu­ally to her un­timely death.

Ex­perts told the courts that the med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions which were car­ried out on young Mireille were su­per­fi­cial at best, with a few fun­da­men­tal ex­am­i­na­tions never be­ing car­ried out. Dr Ed­ward Zam­mit, the courts heard, failed to alert his su­pe­ri­ors even though the child had turned blue and de­vel­oped a rash.

On the fi­nal visit, Dr Daniela Da­marco re­alised that the child’s con­di­tion was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing rapidly and sub­se­quently or­dered a chest scan. Un­for­tu­nately, this was too late and the baby lost her life.

Judge Sil­vio Meli, pre­sid­ing over the case, de­clared that this was a case of se­ri­ous neg­li­gence in view of the han­dling of the case as well as the way in which the doc­tors car­ried out their du­ties when ex­am­in­ing the child.

He noted that the doc­tor who had ini­tially ex­am­ined the baby had just three months ex­pe­ri­ence at the Pae­di­atrics depart­ment. The doc­tors failed to ex­er­cise the dili­gence ex­pected of their pro­fes­sion, he said.

In ad­di­tion to this, he noted that nor­mal pro­ce­dure was not fol­lowed through fail­ure to re­fer to the child’s med­i­cal records, fail­ure to take blood sam­ples, fail­ure to keep the child un­der ob­ser­va­tion, fail­ure to alert their rel­e­vant con­sul­tants and se­nior doc­tors.

The fact that the pae­di­atrics sec­tion of the Emer­gency depart­ment would be closed in­ter­mit­tently was also listed as a short­com­ing.

The com­pen­sa­tion due was estab­lished at €60,518.73 af­ter tak­ing into ac­count the par­ent’s low de­gree of de­pen­dency on the vic­tim and de­duc­tions for a lump sum pay­ment.

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