The widow of a man who died after doctors at Kijabe Hospital removed part of his brain during a tumour operation has been awarded Sh6 million.
Justice Lucy Njuguna ordered AIC Kijabe Hospital to compensate the family of 37-year-old Michael Mwangi for medical negligence, ruling that were it not for the doctor and his medical team’s fatal mistake, the man would still be alive and providing for his family.
“The deceased was the bread winner for the family and as a result of his death, the dependents have lost the support that they used to get from him. The court finds that the hospital breached the duty of care owed to the deceased and must compensate his family,” ruled Njuguna.
The suit against the hospital and lead surgeon Leland Albright was filed by Mwangi’s widow Monica Wairimu claiming general damages and compensation for the pain the hospital subjected her husband to before his death.
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Wairimu’s statement was that she took her husband to the hospital in October 2012 after he complained of severe headache. Doctors discovered he had brain tumour which required surgery to remove.
She said her husband was admitted on December 16, 2012 and the operation done on December 27, 2012. After the surgery, she said her husband was taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until January 16, 2013 when he was transferred to the general ward. He died seven days later.
Wairimu told the court that after the death of her husband, an independent pathologist, who did a post-mortem, informed her that his brain had been removed instead of the tumour and that had the doctors not removed the brain, her husband would not have died.
The pathologist’s report filed in court showed that Mwangi’s death was procedure related. The pathologist on opening the skull had found that 15mm of the man's brain had been removed.
In response to the suit, the hospital and Dr Albright relied on a finding by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board in April 2016 which concluded that they acted in a professional manner to save the patient’s life.
According to a ruling by the medical board dated April 19, 2016 the deceased’s brain was not interfered with as only a small portion of the tumour was removed before excessive bleeding started, forcing the doctor to abandon the surgery.
The board absolved the hospital and the doctors from any blame, ruling that they did their best to take care of the patient after the surgery and ruled out any case of medical negligence.
Justice Njuguna, however, dismissed the defence and the medical board’s findings, ruling that they did not consider the pathologist’s post-mortem report which showed part of the deceased’s brain had been removed during the operation.
She ruled that the hospital owed the patient a duty of care after he suffered severe bleeding as a result of injury to his cerebellum caused by the doctor leading the operation.
“If a doctor does not act with reasonable care and skill in dealing with a patient, that would be negligence. A person holding himself as possessing a special skill and knowledge when consulted owes a duty to the patient to use due caution in undertaking the treatment,” ruled Njuguna.
She ruled that the doctor’s negligence made the family to suffer loss and damages since they depended on him for upkeep.
The judge ruled that at the time of his death, Mwangi was employed by United Paints in the transport department with a salary of Sh35,000 per month. He used to pay rent for the family and school fees for his children.
At the age of 37, the judge ruled that Mwangi still had about 18 more years in employment and multiplied his salary with the number of years to retirement bringing the total to Sh5,040,000.
“For the pain and suffering the deceased went through and on loss of expectation of life, I find that the deceased was in hospital for 27 days while suffering at the hands of the doctors and is entitled to damages of Sh650,000,” ruled Njuguna.
She also awarded the widow special damages of Sh140,000 plus interest.