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Medics want lawyers present
Two doctors involved in the death of baby Simeon are reluctant to come forward before the investigative team without their attorneys being present. The team formerly began the probe on Thursday. This was revealed by retired Appeal Court judge Mustapha Ibrahim who is a member of the team. Ibrahim was speaking at a press conference held a the office of the Attorney General at Cabildo Chambers, Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Also present were consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist of the University College of London Hospitals Dr Melanie Clare Davies and Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne, neonatologist and former head of the Neonatal Unit at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital who are also members of the team. Baby Simeon bled to death after his head was slashed from ear to ear as his mother Quelly Ann Cottle was undergoing a Caesarian-section at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope on Carnival Saturday.
Ibrahim, Davies and Manning-Alleyne were formerly introduced to members of the media by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. Ibrahim was responding to a question on whether doctors, in particular those assigned to the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of the West Indies were cooperating in the probe. He said all the other doctors have complied and came forward willingly to be questioned by the team.
On a time frame of when the probe is expected to be completed Ibrahim said this was difficult to say as a large number of witnesses were expected to be called. “We have to examine them orally. We have to consider what our duties of care are and what are the duties of care which exist in T&T and whether they are sufficient or whether they should be improved,” Ibrahim said. He said Davies would be leaving T&T shortly to attend an international conference.
Although there was these constraints the probe would be completed within the shortest possible time. Regarding negligence, Ibrahim said this was a civil claim which was outside the remit of the team. He said if there was evidence that criminal charges ought to be laid then that would be the case. “But we have not yet completed the inquiry so we can’t give any opinion at this point in time as to the facts we have before us if we are sure that criminal charges or civil charges or a breech of duty have occurred.
“We have to look at all the evidence, weigh the evidence very carefully and them make up our minds with respect to recommendations,” Ibrahim said. He said the AG told the team to present a comprehensive report dealing with all the matters and circumstances including whether duties of care were broken on the day baby Simeon died. Describing the matter as a novel case Ibrahim said the team had to be very careful as to how it proceeded.
One of the issues which would be examined extensively was how to improve the neonatal system. Ramlogan said because the medical profession was so close knit there was a great reluctance on the part of doctors to testify against their colleagues. He said T&T would be looking to implement a medical complaints council as such was the case in England.
Contacted yesterday Cottle said she appeared before the team on Thursday and was asked to give a ball by ball account of what transpired on the day baby Simeon died. Saying it was difficult Cottle said she cried a bit but kept her composure. “They interviewed me yesterday (Thursday) and it went fairly ok. But honestly speaking I have little confidence would get some justice. I am very sceptical of what is going on,” Cottle said.
She said she told the team what was needed were severe penalties for doctors who were found culpable as too many innocent lives were being lost.