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Was Sudden Death Caused By Medical Malpractice ?

Was Sudden Death Caused By Medical Malpractice ?
July 13
12:05 2018
Marion Ali: Assistant Editor

A family is blaming the public health system, and particularly the Western Regional Hospital, for the death of their loved one on Saturday; and they are seeking legal advice on whether to file a civil suit against the Ministry of Health on that ground.

Justin Neal, 27, a cable technician of Santa Elena, Cayo, died on Monday morning, five days after he sought medica help for pain in his right side.
Neal first went to a private clinic in Cayo, which prescribed tests that showed he had an inflamed appendix. He was referred to the San Ignacio Hospital for treatment and that hospital, which does not have a surgical facility, sent him Wednesday night to the Western Regional Hospital to handle his case.

Justin’s older brother, Jason Neal, told the Reporter that the female surgeon on duty (who he did not name because of a possible lawsuit) decided to perform an appendectomy. She got the permission of the family for that procedure and went into surgery. Two hours later, however, the surgeon returned to the family and informed them that while removing the appendix, she discovered that Neal had a cyst on his colon, and that she needed their permission to perform a second surgery to remove it or he would die. Neal’s mother approved the surgery and the surgeon went back in the operating theater. When she came back out sometime after 4:00 Thursday morning, Jason told us, the surgeon informed them that she could not remove the cyst, but that she took off a piece of it to test if it was cancerous.

Justin was placed in the General Ward at the Western Regional Hospital following his surgery, and according to Jason, he was placed in close proximity to two patients who the family feels should have been quarantined for their illnesses. One of the patients apparent had an acute respiratory illness while the other had an amputated leg that the family felt required further medical attention because of the smell that emanated from that patient.

By the following morning (Friday) Justin had developed a high fever and asked his family to take him elsewhere for treatment because he did not have confidence nor was he satisfied with the level of care and treatment he was receiving at the Western Regional Hospital. The family granted his wishes and against the surgeon’s advice, took Justin Friday night via a private ambulance from the Western Regional Hospital to a private medical centre also located in Belmopan.
While Jason said his brother told them he felt comfortable at the private clinic, by the following morning (Saturday) his condition had significantly worsened and he had begun to throw up his medication and could not breathe on his own. The surgeon from Western Regional Hospital visited him at the private clinic, but had a different opinion from that of the private doctor over results from tests taken on Justin’s heart. Jason told us that while the private doctor thought Justin’s heart rate was too fast, the surgeon thought it was normal.

The surgeon advised the family to transfer Justin to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital because the KHMH had the equipment he was going to need to treat him, but the KHMH did not agree to take the patient. Jason could not explain the reason given for this. He said that the family decided to take Justin to Belize Health Care Partners, a private hospital in Belize City, which determined that he had two collapsed lungs and that he needed to be placed in an induced coma to help him breathe. His heart rate by this time was getting noticeably weaker, and despite the doctors’ efforts to resuscitate him several times while at Health Care Partners, Justin died on Monday morning. A post mortem examination certified that his cause of death was respiratory-related complications.

The family feels that Justin’s exposure to the two patients in the ward at the Western Regional Hospital following his surgery quite likely caused him to contract the respiratory condition, coupled with the length of time (more than four hours) that he was kept in the cold surgical theatre. They are also awaiting the results of more lab tests that he underwent before he died in order to decide what actions they will take, with the assistance of their attorneys, following his funeral on Thursday.

Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero told the Reporter that it would be difficult to establish when exactly and how Justin Neal acquired the condition that eventually caused his death. Manzanero pointed out that the patient could have had the condition before its symptoms started to manifest themselves, and before he was admitted to the Western Regional Hospital.

Manzanero said that the Ministry has not received any formal complaint from the family about the matter but that a review of the patient’s hospitalization, like all other hospitalizations, will be a normal part of the Ministry’s routine.

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