Govt Held Liable Over Amputation

GOVERNMENT will have to compensate a man whose leg was amputated after a wrong diagnosis was made by a doctor at Katutura State Hospital, a judge ruled in the Windhoek High Court this week.

The amputation of the right leg of Ivan Kasingo became necessary simply because an operation to repair a gunshot injury to a vein in his leg was done too late, Acting Judge Kobus Miller found in a judgement on a civil claim that Kasingo lodged against the minister of health and social services and the superintendent of Katutura State Hospital.

Kasingo has sued the minister and the hospital superintendent for N$6 million. Although the court has now found the minister liable to compensate Kasingo for the amputation of his leg, no ruling on the amount of money that is to be paid to him has been made yet. The amount to which Kasingo would be entitled as compensation would either have to be agreed between Kasingo and the minister or determined by the court, Acting Judge Miller pointed out in his judgement.

Kasingo’s case against the minister and the superintendent appears set to make a turn in the Supreme Court first, before it might move on to a stage where the compensation to be paid to him would have to be determined, after a notice of the minister’s intention to appeal against Acting Judge Miller’s ruling was filed with the court this week.

Kasingo sustained a serious injury to his right leg after he accidentally shot himself in the limb at Luumlderitz during the early morning hours of 12 April 2009. His right femur was fractured and a blood vessel in his leg was damaged in the shooting.

After a doctor at the town had diagnosed a vascular injury which required prompt attention, it was decided to airlift Kasingo to Windhoek for medical treatment. Kasingo was admitted to Katutura State Hospital at about 13h00 on 12 April 2009, Acting Judge Miller recounted the events.

Kasingo’s injury was examined by a Cuban doctor at the hospital. In a critical turn of events, that doctor failed to diagnose the injury to a blood vessel in Kasingo’s leg. That resulted in the vascular injury being left untreated.

Over the next two days it was noted that the leg was cold – a sign that there was a problem with the supply of blood to the limb.

Three days after his admission to Katutura State Hospital, Kasingo was transferred to Windhoek Central Hospital, where a specialist surgeon concluded that the leg had become stiff and that it could not be saved. At the insistence of another doctor an operation was done to repair the injured artery in the leg the next day, but that surgery was in vain.

With gangrene setting in in Kasingo’s leg, a decision was taken to amputate the limb in order to save his life.

Two medical doctors who testified on behalf of Kasingo and the minister respectively agreed that the standard of care received by Kasingo fell below what is expected of a reasonable doctor, Acting Judge Miller noted in his judgement.

While the surgeon who testified on behalf of Kasingo was of the opinion that the leg could in all probability have been saved if the blood supply had been restored in time, the opinion of the doctor who testified on behalf of the minister was that amputation was in any event inevitable, due to the nature of the injury to the leg.

Acting Judge Miller found that the testimony of the surgeon, who is also a specialist in blood vessel surgery and who performed the operation on Kasingo, had to be preferred over that of the other doctor, who based his opinion on the notes made by the medical staff who attended to Kasingo.

“The amputation became necessary simply because the surgery was performed too late,” the judge found.

Lawyer Irvin Titus has been representing Kasingo. Government lawyer Marius Boonzaier represented the minister and hospital superintendent.

Source : The Namibian