Woman sues KZN Health over Formalin post-op drink

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A case in which an elderly Pietermaritzburg woman is suing KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for Health after she was allegedly given Formalin instead of water to drink after an operation, came before the High Court this week and was adjourned to 16 May next year for trial, reports The Witness. The KZN Health Department is opposing the claim.

Isabella Brink Beyers Smith, who according to court papers is over 70-years-old and resides at Sunnyside Park old age home, was admitted to Grey’s Hospital on 5 May, 2010, for a total knee replacement operation and after the operation was wheeled into a recovery room adjoining the theatre. There she allegedly felt thirsty and asked for a drink of water. The court papers allege that the anaesthetist who had performed the anaesthetic on Smith handed her a container of what appeared to be water. She “took a big gulp” to quench her thirst and “immediately felt excruciating pain in her nose, mouth, chest and stomach”.

According to papers drawn up by her lawyer Siva Chetty, Smith was given Formalin to drink instead of water. She was subsequently allegedly treated for Formalin ingestion, toxicity and complications and other consequences of what happened.

It is alleged that the staff who had a duty to treat Smith with “professionalism and skill” failed in their duties by causing her to drink Formalin. The papers allege that they were negligent in several respects including failure to label the container which had the Formalin in it.

Hospital staff also allegedly failed to counsel Smith about the “cause of her pain” and the complications associated with ingesting Formalin. They also failed to arrange trauma counselling for her.

Full report in The Witness

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