Saturday, 25 May, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalDoctor gets green light to sue colleague over amputation

Doctor gets green light to sue colleague over amputation

A Standerton doctor who was shot during a robbery and whose colleagues then amputated his leg has got the court's go-ahead to prove the damages he suffered, after instituting a claim for R11.4m.

The decision comes after one of the doctors “liable for the amputation” lost his appeal.

Dr Abdus Patel had testified that if Dr Aboo Baker Joosub and Dr Frederick Louw had acted faster after he was shot, the amputation would have been unnecessary. But earlier, the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria), found Patel’s colleagues could not be blamed and had turned down the claim. Patel subsequently appealed to a full Bench, which found Louw should be held accountable.

Louw turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which turned down his appeal.

The Pretoria News reports that Patel was robbed by two men at his home surgery on 7 August 2009 and and shot in the left thigh.

The bullet shattered the femur into two pieces, transacted an artery and injured a vein. While the paramedics worked on him and prepared to transport him to Standerton Hospital’s trauma unit, his colleague, Joosub, heard about the shooting, and drove to the scene. There, he phoned the hospital to say he was on his way.

Louw was on call at the time and promised to tend to Patel once he had completed an appendectomy already scheduled.

When Patel arrived at the hospital, Louw was not yet there and Joosub phoned around to try to find another doctor recommended by Patel.

But while on the phone, Louw arrived and examined Patel. He said there was a possibility of a vascular injury, which could not be treated at the Standerton Hospital.

Louw sent Patel for X-rays before attending to the scheduled appendectomy, for which he was running late, and then decided to transfer Patel to the Pretoria East Hospital and phoned another colleague, an orthopaedic expert there, to care for Patel when he arrived.

Apparently, however, the Pretoria East Hospital was not equipped to deal with this type of injury either.

Patel arrived there two hours later, but then had to be taken to the Pretoria Heart Hospital.

But it was too late. By this time the lack of blood and oxygen to his leg led to it having to be amputated.

Patel said his colleagues were negligent, as they should have transferred him to a facility with vascular facilities, and should have ordered his transfer to Pretoria via helicopter.

The delay caused blood flow problems which in turn necessitated his leg being amputated, he said.

Patel initially also instituted a claim for damages against the Mpumalanga MEC for Health, which he said failed to render hospital and nursing services of a standard reasonably expected of a hospital of the size and location of Standerton Hospital.

The claim against the MEC was later withdrawn.

The trial court dismissed the claim in respect of both doctors, having found no causal link between their negligence and the harm suffered by Patel: the amputation of his lower left leg.

But the full court, on appeal, found Louw had failed to transfer Patel to definitive care with the necessary urgency, leading to the amputation. It accordingly found a causal link between the negligence and the resultant harm.

On appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal, Louw held he was not at fault as he did all he could under the circumstances.

The finding of the full Bench of judges earlier that Louw be held liable for the damages was based on an acceptance of the evidence of an expert that the leg would almost certainly have been salvaged if blood flow were restored within four hours of the injury, as opposed to the nine hours and 30 minutes that it took.

The Supreme Court, in turning down Louw’s appeal, agreed with this finding. The amount of damages payable to Patel is to be determined later.


IOL article – Doctor shot during robbery gets nod to sue colleague for amputation of his leg (Open access)


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