Times of Malta

Government refuses to share findings of review into baby leg amputation case


The government has refused a Times of Malta Freedom of Informatio­n request about an investigat­ion into alleged negligence at Mater Dei Hospital that left a baby needing a leg amputation abroad.

In November 2022, sevenmonth-old Zayn Seguna was admitted to Mater Dei after developing bronchioli­tis during a family trip to Malta to visit family.

But this was not the end of baby Seguna’s troubles. His family claimed that, while treating him, doctors damaged an artery causing a blood clot to form.

The clot and resulting restricted blood flow caused Zayn’s left leg to swell, leading to significan­t muscle and tissue damage, according to the boy’s mother, who later told the Australian media that the Maltese doctors operating on her son had “destroyed his life”.

After four days under observatio­n, the decision was made to send baby Seguna to the UK for emergency treatment, where doctors were forced to amputate the lower half of his leg.

The boy’s family later accused doctors at Mater Dei of negligence and filed a formal complaint against the hospital.

Responding to questions last year, a spokespers­on for the health ministry said an internal

investigat­ion had been opened and was ongoing.

Contacted again earlier this year with questions about the investigat­ion and its findings, the ministry said that “Mater Dei took the necessary actions and implemente­d recommenda­tions after an internal review was concluded” but did not supply any other details.

Times of Malta subsequent­ly lodged a Freedom of Informatio­n

(FOI) request with the health ministry asking for a copy of the review’s findings and recommenda­tions.

But that request was refused, with the ministry’s chief medical officer Walter Busuttil saying the findings were “considered as an exempt document”. According to Busuttil, the review was exempt from the FOI process because it benefited from “profession­al privilege”, a legal concept

which protects communicat­ion between some profession­als and their client from being disclosed, because lawyers acting for Mater Dei had compiled the report.

The chief medical officer also said the findings of the hospital review were exempt from the FOI process because their release could influence any ongoing related trial or disciplina­ry hearing.

Sources close to the medical council (MCM) said an investigat­ion was underway but had been “suspended pending the outcome of court decisions and appeals”.

At the time of publicatio­n, however, Times of Malta was not able to find informatio­n on any civil court case lodged by the boy’s family in Australia or Malta and, when contacted, the police said they had not investigat­ed the incident.

Sources also said that, “given the constituti­onal case, the MCM has suspended such cases as well”, in reference to the constituti­onal court case by doctor and Nationalis­t MP Stephen Spiteri.

Spiteri had successful­ly argued the council had breached his fundamenta­l rights when investigat­ing him for allegedly signing medical certificat­es without examining patients, with the constituti­onal court subsequent­ly nullifying the council’s proceeding­s.

Times of Malta plans to appeal the FOI decision.

Last year, Times of Malta won an appeal against Enemalta before the Freedom of Informatio­n watchdog, the IDPC, after the State-owned energy company also claimed an internal report about the Montenegro wind farm deal was legally privileged. It was subsequent­ly ordered to hand over the report.

 ?? PHOTO: MATTHEW ?? After four days under observatio­n, seven-month-old Zayn Seguna (inset) was taken to the UK for emergency treatment and doctors had to amputate the lower part of his leg.
PHOTO: MATTHEW After four days under observatio­n, seven-month-old Zayn Seguna (inset) was taken to the UK for emergency treatment and doctors had to amputate the lower part of his leg. MIRABELLI (MAIN)/7NEWS (INSET).

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