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Medical negligence, malpractice inflate the rate of untimely deaths

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Medical negligence, malpractice inflate the rate of untimely deaths

– Account for nearly 50% of all hospital deathse

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of reports of medical negligence and malpractice in Nigeria, which has been attributed to the crisis in the health sector in terms of shortage of medical personnel, lack of adequate facilities and equipment, lack of proper funding, to mention but a few.

Medical malpractice/negligence occurs when healthcare professionals fail to provide standard medical care to their patients through a negligent act or omission, hence leading to injury or the death of a patient.

A survey on medical errors in Nigeria, published by the Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2017, estimated the rate of medical errors to be 42.8%. According to this survey, the three most common errors committed by the participants were an error in medication prescription, which made up 95.2%, an error of radio-laboratory investigation ordering, which was 83.9% and an error in physician diagnoses was 69.4%.

Several cases of medical errors have led to the untimely deaths of many Nigerians. This is a deep-rooted issue affecting most families in Nigeria who have at some point lost a family member to medical negligence.

A recent case is the untimely death of Rebekah Sekidika, a 24-year-old first-class graduate of the Benson Idahosa University, who passed on at Paragon Clinics and Images, Port Harcourt in February 2024.

Speaking to newsmen on the issue, the father of the victim, Sampson Sekidika, an employee of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), revealed that his daughter visited the hospital for a diagnostic procedure called Hysteroscopy as suggested by the hospital after she complained of missed periods.

“Prior to February 2, my daughter had a brief clinical visit to Paragon Clinics and Imaging Diagnostics. The complaint was that she had not seen her period for a while. So, she needed to know why it was that so. So, when she had the clinical visit, they subjected her to some tests, including a pregnancy test, which came out to be all negative.

“Subsequently, they called her again to say she needed to see a specialist to be sure that there was nothing wrong with her. The specialist then booked an appointment with her to come on February 2 between midday and 1 pm for a simple procedure they called hysteroscopy,” he said.

Sekidika stated that his daughter was healthy and had no medical condition, adding that he drove her and the mother to the hospital but they waited as the doctor wasn’t around.

“I left them there to go and do one or two things and come back and meet them. After some two hours, around 3pm, I called my wife but she said the doctor hadn’t come. She (Rebekah) was supposed to travel to the United Kingdom for her Masters and PhD programmes. Everything was set, the flight booked, tuition paid, everything arranged. So by 4 pm, I called my wife but she said the doctor was still not around. So I said I would be coming to pick them up since he hadn’t come,” he added.

He revealed that when he got back to the hospital at 5 pm, they had already taken his daughter into the operating theatre around 4:30 pm. He further revealed that when he asked to know why she was taken into the operating theatre, they told him that was where the monitor was, noting that he wasn’t aware they were going to give his daughter a spinal anaesthetic.

“I’m saying this because experts have analysed the situation. Even some doctors have looked into it. I could have easily gone to any other hospital and take care of this. But this hospital is a retainership hospital with my company, so they referred us there,” he said.

“Around 6:50 pm, the doctor came out and broke the sad news to us that, ‘Sorry, we did everything we could, your daughter has passed.’ It was like I was in a dream. My wife started shouting and throwing herself.”

“We saw a nurse and asked her to take us to where the doctor was. When we got to them, my colleague then asked them what really happened. The doctor pointed to the man that administered the anaesthetics that he gave my daughter spinal anaesthetic. He asked, ‘Why’? The man said 30 minutes into the procedure after he gave her the anaesthetic, it apparently numbed some parts of her body.

“So, he said she wanted to throw up from there, she started throwing up blood. He said at that point he became confused. He didn’t know what to do. So, that was how they tried to see how they could manage the situation until she lost so much blood and passed on,” he recounted.

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The parents of the victim have asked for justice and a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death, alleging that it was due to foul play and medical negligence on the part of the medical professionals, who carried out the medical procedure on their daughter.

“It is a foul play for them to have given her spinal anaesthetic for a simple procedure that did not require an operation. I want justice. Out of sheer negligence and incompetence, she was killed and I want a full investigation into this case. I want the two people, who carried out the procedure on my daughter to be interrogated. If it is established she died out of incompetence and negligence, the law knows what to do with them. It is justice we are seeking for,” her father said.

The news that sent shock waves to Nigerians was the demise of Adebola Akin-Bright, a 12-year-old boy, whose small intestine went missing following surgical procedures.

Akin-Bright passed away on Tuesday, 19th September 2023 after undergoing two surgeries in a private hospital and a corrective surgery at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).

In a viral video, the deceased’s mother, Deborah Abiodun disclosed that the boy had undergone the first surgery after he was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix at Obitoks Medical Centre, a private hospital in Ile Epo, Lagos.

After the surgery, he suffered from complications, which led to intestinal obstruction. Akin-Bright’s intestine started leaking after the second surgery at the same private hospital. The CMD at Obitoks then referred them to LASUTH, where a corrective surgery was carried out.

Abiodun explained that the consultants in charge of her son’s case in LASUTH told her after the surgery that when they opened up the boy, they didn’t find his small intestine, hence his chances of surviving another five days were slim.

“I was dumbfounded, it was like my whole life was shattered because it was a story that could be told in Nollywood. Where could a 26-foot-long small intestine have gone to? We immediately contacted the surgeon, who handled the first two surgeries and he wondered why LASUTH would claim they could not find a bowel in the boy after spending 27 days with them.

“He insisted that he would never have referred us to the government hospital in such a condition and explicitly stated what he had done in his referral letter. The results of the test we ran when we got to LASUTH never indicated that such a thing happened but they are insisting they didn’t find an intestine in my boy. We are confused and we are begging the Lagos State government to unravel the puzzle,” she said.

Another case was the passing of Peju Ugboma, a pastry chef, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a pastry company, I Luv Desserts, who died of internal bleeding after an elective hysterectomy operation for a fibroid condition at Premier Specialists Medical Centre, Victoria Island in April 2021.

After the surgery, she complained of severe abdominal pain and discomfort. Her blood pressure dropped to as low as the range of 50/30.

However, she died after she was referred to EverCare Specialist Hospital from Premier Specialists Medical Centre. On getting to Evercare, they discovered that she had no pulse, and emergency CPR to revive her failed.

The deceased’s husband, Ijeoma Ugboma, said she died due to the negligence of doctors at Premier Specialists Hospital who attended to her.

At the Coroner’s inquest, Chief Magistrate Mukaila Fadeyi, the coroner, blamed the physicians at Premier Specialists Medical Centre for medical negligence and lack of due diligence, stating that an autopsy revealed that the deceased died from massive inter-abdominal bleeding, as 500ml of blood and 900ml of clotted blood were found in her abdomen.

Another heartbreaking story is the death of Omolara Omoyajuwolo, an employee of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), who was rushed to the Beachland Specialist Hospital, Arepo Ogun State after suffering an ulcer attack.

Her friend, who narrated this story, said Omolara went home after receiving the injection but when she visited her later in the day, she noticed Omolara was sweating profusely and breathing heavily.

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She was rushed to the same hospital with the help of neighbours. Afterwards, she was given additional injections and a device was placed on her thumb. Instead of improving, her health deteriorated, when the device placed on her left thumb stopped working due to a low battery.

At that point, another doctor, who attended to them suggested that her friend should be placed on oxygen and started inquiring about her medical history. After a while, she was transferred to LASUTH and was pronounced dead on arrival.

“They placed her head on my laps and asked me to raise my laps, the windows were [wound] down as they advised, When we got to LASUTH, the doctors at the medical emergency announced Lara dead and they filled a form ‘BID’ (Brought in dead) Lara died! She died on my laps and in my arms. Lara’s health was obviously mismanaged.

“Lara doesn’t joke with her health, she went to the hospital herself, It’s a pity it had to be Lara my friend, Lara could be me tomorrow, Lara could be you. The health system needs a reform. Health mismanagement and negligence of the health workers in Beachland Specialist Hospital Arepo killed my friend Omolara Omoyajuwolo. There was no ambulance, there was no supporting oxygen, there was no nurse,” she shared.

These are a few of the numerous cases of untimely deaths of young and vibrant Nigerians, who lost their lives due to medical negligence and malpractice.

Medical negligence and malpractice are in no doubt contrary to the code of medical ethics, which clearly outlines the duties of physicians to the sick, which include:

(A) A physician shall always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life. (B) A physician shall owe his patients complete loyalty and all the resources of his science. Whenever an examination or treatment is beyond the physician’s capacity he should summon another physician, who has the necessary ability. (D) A physician shall give emergency care as a humanitarian duty unless he is assured that others are willing and able to give such care.

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