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AG: Don’t prejudge outcome of probe

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday admitted something went “tragically and drastically wrong” at the Mt Hope Maternity Hospital that caused baby Simeon his life.

He, however, cautioned care must be taken not to prejudge the matter, nor the outcome of the investigation. 

A Caesarean section was performed on Quelly Ann Cottle, 38, at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on March 1, during which her baby died. 

Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan has said he intends to send the completed file from ongoing investigations to Ramlogan for review.

Speaking with the media yesterday at the Parliament Building, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Ramlogan said he has been involved in many cases where babies would have died, and when the experts came with the report it was not always because of medical negligence.

“I anxiously await the report from the investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of this baby. The role of everyone will also be looked at and the interaction of the team. 

“It may very well be that it is not any one person to blame, that it is the system to blame. It may very well be the procedures in place that are to blame, but something went tragically and drastically wrong that needs to be corrected.

“Rest assured that I will take a hard, cold, clinical look at the facts in this matter to see where the system fell down with such terrible, horrible and fatal consequences. I extend my sympathy to the parents.

“But we must be careful not to prejudge the matter and not to prejudice the outcome of the investigation. The loss of a baby in such tragic and terrible circumstances is bound to cause outrage, but at the same time we must allow the system to have its say and not be swayed by emotions. 

“The doctor too is a human being. He would have devoted half his life studying to become a doctor and then specialised, and in all of this I was very pleased to see the parent spare a thought for the doctor,” he added.

He said in his private practice he did a lot of pioneering work in the field of medical negligence and thinks the question of professional and institutional negligence is one the State has a duty and responsibility to look at.

“We cannot shirk from our duty and responsibility to the wider patient population in T&T when it comes to these matters. The public health-care system in Trinidad is a matter that requires critical examination, bearing the law in mind because the law imposes a duty of care and certain stan­dards of care and those minimum legal standards must be met or else the risk of litigation and the exposure of State is going to be quite high—which is why I suspect that my colleague has indicated that he will refer this matter to me for eventual determination of what went wrong, why it went wrong and how it can be prevented from recurring in the future, if there is in fact negligence.”

He added that the science of medicine is not precise and exact, and so no doctor can guarantee the outcome of any surgical procedure since surgery, by its very nature, is something that is unpredictable and there are margins of error and statistics for fai­lures occurring.

Ramlogan said if there is a legal basis for advising settlement in the matter, it is something he will do; and if there is evidence to suggest it crosses the parameters of civil to criminal law, then he will have no difficulty in referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Commissioner of Police.

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