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2. URGENT APPEAL - SRI LANKA: A PREGNANT WOMAN DIED DUE TO THE NEGLIGENCE OF HOSPITAL STAFF

     -- AHRC

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

Urgent Appeal

17 August 2005

UA-144-2005: SRI LANKA: A pregnant woman died due to the negligence of hospital staff

SRI LANKA: Right to life; Medical negligence resulting in death


Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received another case of death cased by negligence of hospital staff.

According to the information received, Ms. Deepika Prasadhi Jayasuriya (31) died while delivering a baby at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital due to the alleged negligence of hospital staff on 23 July 2005 (Click to see the victim's photo: Photo 1). The Visiting Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (VOG), Dr. U.D. Pushpananda Rathnasiri, who was in charge of the victim from the beginning of her pregnancy, appeared at the hospital more than 3 ? hours after being informed that the victim's condition was complicated. According to the regulation, he should have gone to the hospital within 20 minutes of being contacted. In addition, the circumstance of the victim's death is unclear. Ms. Jayasuriya suddenly died despite the hospital staff's assurances to her husband that her condition was not serious and was manageable. 

In the meantime, the hospital has neither taken disciplinary action against the concerned VOG nor made an apology or compensation to the victim's family. Meanwhile, the police have not taken any action to investigate the incident, despite the victim's husband having made a complaint at the Panadura Police Station on 23 July 2005.  As a result, VOG Rathnasiri continues his work as usual.

This is yet another case related to the negligence of hospital staff. (Please see the other cases: UA-77-2005, UA-67-2005, UP-51-2005, and UP-56-2005). Please write a letter to the relevant local authorities to immediately investigate the incident and take disciplinary/legal action against the Kethumathi hospital staff and the said VOG.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

DETAILED INFORMATION:

Name of the victim: Ms. Deepika Prasadhi Jayasuriya (deceased), 31-years-old, resides in Batahena, Morontuduwa, Sri Lanka
Alleged perpetrators: Staff of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura, particularly Visiting Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (VOG), Dr. U.D. Pushpananda Rathnasiri
Date of incident: 23 July 2005

Details of case (as narrated by the victim's husband, S.A. Munasinghe):

On 20 July 2005, S.A. Munasinghe admitted his pregnant wife, Ms. Deepika Prasadhi Jayasuriya to the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital in Panadura for the delivery of their first child. This was on the advice of the Visiting Obstetrician & Gynecologist (VOG) Dr. U.D. Pushpananda Rathnasiri, who was in charge of Ms. Jayasuriya from the beginning of her pregnancy. S.A. Munasinghe recalls that the doctor assured him that his wife was in good health and that she would have a normal delivery. 

On the morning of July 23, Ms. Jayasuriya was taken to a delivery room. Mr. Munasinghe asked the hospital staff several times about his wife's condition at around noon and they repeatedly assured him that Ms. Jayasuriya was "doing fine".

According to P. Nandani Perera, the duty nurse that day, she resumed duty around 1:00pm on July 23, inspected Ms. Jayasuriya and gave her medicine to induce the delivery. Then the house officer (HO) arrived and conducted a pelvic examination and informed the Senior House Officer (SHO) who again conducted another pelvic examination. The SHO then informed VOG Rathnasiri of the results, presumably because there might be some complications in the delivery. However the said VOG failed to arrive. The hospital staff then attempted to use the 'vacuum system', but failed to bring about delivery. They then used forceps and forcibly delivered the baby at around 3:10pm. But Ms. Jayasuriya began to bleed profusely. The hospital staff tried to stop the bleeding but failed to do so. Ms. Jayasuriya was transferred to the operating theatre around 5:10 pm. Mr. Munasinghe said that he tried to touch his wife or at least speak with her, but it appeared that she was unconscious. The concerned VOG had yet to arrive at the hospital. The nurse said that she was unaware of what happened or who took charge of the patient thereafter.

Around 5:30pm when Mr. Munasinghe enquired after his wife's condition again, the hospital staff simply told him that there was a slight injury to the victim's blood vessel but this was nothing to be worried about. When he requested that his wife be transferred to another hospital, due to her precarious condition, the staff assured him that the hospital was equipped to handle her situation.

According to Mr. Munasinghe, it was only around 6:45pm - that is more than 3 ? hours after being informed by the hospital that the victim's condition was complicated - that the VOG Rathnasiri arrived at the hospital. Ms. Jayasuriya died at 7:10pm. It is alleged that VOG Rathnasiri did not come to the hospital immediately after being informed about the victim's condition because of his private practice. However, the concerned VOG gave a lengthy description during the inquest of the many attempts which he made to revive and save the victim's life between 6:45pm and 7:10pm. The Medical Officer of Health (MOH), Panadura, informed Mr. Munasinghe that the concerned VOG had to come to the hospital within 20 minutes after contacted by the hospital. Mr. Munasinghe believes that his wife might have survived if the VOG presented himself in time.

On the night of July 23, Mr. Munasinghe complained to the Panadura Police Station about the incident, but the police have yet to take any serious action to investigate the case. The hospital authorities have not enquired into the incident nor taken any disciplinary action against the VOG. As a result, VOG Rathnasiri continues his work as usual.

Later the inquest into Ms. Jayasuriya's death was conducted by the Panadura Coroner who heard evidence from the duty nurse and the errant VOG. The coroner issued an open verdict until the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) determined the cause of death. However, the JMO intimated he could only arrive at the cause of death after the Government Analyst's report on the deceased' tissue samples were sent to him. It is feared that this will be needlessly postponed. Mr. Munasinghe also expressed his concern that there will be attempts to conceal the truth behind this case, or that it will be dragged into oblivion.

The AHRC is deeply concerned by this death caused by the negligence of the hospital staff. This is not the first case of medical negligence on the part of hospital authorities at the Negombo Base Hospital. The AHRC has reported several similar cases this year (See further: UA-77-2005, UA-67-2005, UP-51-2005, and UP-56-2005). We urge an immediate investigation be conducted into the negligence of the Kethumathi hospital staff and the said VOG related to the victim's death. Appropriate action must be taken against the VOG and the hospital authorities accordingly.


SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter to the persons listed below demanding that an immediate enquiry is held into this matter and that a proper action is taken against the concerned doctor and hospital administration for their error.

Sample letter:

Dear __________,

Re: SRI LANKA: A pregnant woman died due to the negligence of hospital staff

Name of the victim: Ms. Deepika Prasadhi Jayasuriya (deceased), 31-years-old, resides in Batahena, Morontuduwa, Sri Lanka
Alleged perpetrators: Staff of the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital, Panadura, particularly Visiting Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (VOG), Dr. U.D. Pushpananda Rathnasiri
Date of incident: 23 July 2005

The young woman mentioned above passed away at the Kethumathi Maternity Hospital on 23 July 2005, whle attempting to deliver a baby, due to the alleged negligence of hospital staff. I was shocked to learn that the concerned Visiting Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Dr. U.D. Pushpananda Rathnasiri, who was in charge of the victim from the beginning of her pregnancy, arrived at the hospital more than 3 ? hours after being informed by the hospital that the victim's condition was complicated. In principle, visiting doctors must attend to the hospital within 20 minutes after being contacted.
 
The negligence of the said VOG directly lies to the responsibility of the hospital authorities as he is an employee of the hospital. The hospital authorities should further take responsibility for the victim's death as she was in their custody at the time of incident.

However, I am aware that the hospital has neither taken disciplinary action against the concerned VOG nor made an apology or compensation to the victim's family. Meanwhile, the police have not taken any action to investigate the incident, despite the victim's husband having made a complaint at the Panadura Police Station on 23 July 2005.

I therefore urge you to order an immediate inquiry into this incident and take legal/disciplinary action against the concerned doctor and hospital staff. I especially urge the Ministry of Healthcare, Nutrition and Uva Wellassa Development and the Sri Lankan Medical Council to hold an immediate disciplinary inquiry into this errant VOG and take appropriate disciplinary action against him. I also request you to ensure that the victim's family receives adequate compensation. 

I look for your action in this matter.

Sincerely yours,


----------------------

SEND A LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva
Minister
Ministry of Healthcare, Nutrition and Uva Wellassa Development
"Suwasiripaya", No.385,
Rev. Baddegama Wimalawansa Thero Mawatha
Colombo 10
SRI LANKA
Tel/Fax: +94 11 2 662982, 694132 or 694227
E-mail: Minister@health.gov.Ik, sechim@sltnet.lk (for the secretary)
 
2. Provincial Director of Health (WP)


P O Box 876

Maligawatte Secretariat
Colombo 10
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 5353501
 
3. Registrar
Sri Lanka Medical Council
6 Wijerama Mawatha
Colombo 07
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 624787

4. Mr. K. C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General
Attorney General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 436 421

5. Mr. Chandra Fernando
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
New Secretariat, Colombo 1
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877

6. Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Chairperson
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 36, Kynsey Road, Colombo 8
SRI LANKA
Tel: +94 11 2 694 925 / 673 806
Fax: +94 11 2 694 924 / 696 470
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Posted on 2005-08-19



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