A High Court Judge is calling for an independent medical board to be established to provide expert opinions to members of the public who may be the victims of medical negligence.
Justice Frank Seepersad made the plea in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, as he ruled in favour of a man who had applied at the last minute to adduce expert evidence in a medical negligence claim for his wife, who remains in a medically induced coma since having complications after the birth of the couple's daughter in 2009.
Noting that Krishna Jagessar had difficulties in convincing local doctors to review his wife's case before enlisting the help of a United States expert, three years after the lawsuit was filed, Seepersad suggested that there is a "culture" among local doctors to band together and protect each other.
"There is also a tendency for medical professionals to band together and very often there is an unwillingness by professionals to express opinions that condemn or criticise the work of fellow professionals," Seepersad said.
He also stated that users of the public health care system faced "inherent injustice," as they are likely to be unable to pay to obtain foreign expert advice, thus leading to their lawsuits failing.
"There is an urgent need for the establishment of a body, such as a medical expert review board, that can objectively review medical notes and advance a preliminary opinion as to whether or not there was a breach of the requisite standard of care. Such a service should form part of the public health care system," Seepersad said.
While Seepersad stated that Jagessar had applied outside the time frame for doing so, he said his decision to allow the evidence nonetheless would not prejudice the defence of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA).
According to his lawsuit, Jagessar's wife, Solange, a primary school teacher, was found unresponsive at her home on October 2, 2009, a couple of days after she gave birth to her daughter at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
She reportedly was suffering from unmanageable seizures and had to be placed in a medically induced coma.
Tests later showed she was suffering from post-partum eclampsia, which was caused by remnants of the baby's placenta being left in her uterus after birth.
However, Jagessar claims he was told by doctors of varying causes for his wife's condition and was informed that she had to remain in a coma.
He contends that the hospital staff acted negligently as they failed to ensure that she was fit to be discharged after she gave birth and also in their care of his wife after her subsequent hospitalisation.
"The patient's health has deteriorated considerably over the last few years and she has been reduced from the physical condition of a healthy young woman to an emaciated state and remains in a virtual vegetative state up to the present time," the lawsuit states.
Jagessar is seeking compensation, including for his wife's loss of earning, cost of her continued health care not covered by the public health system and for the pain, suffering and the pain he and his three children – ages 17, 13 and six – have been suffering since her death. The lawsuit is set to go on trial later this year.
Jagessar is being represented by Naresh Ramchandani while Neal Bisnath and Alana Bissessar appeared for the NCRHA.