LEGAL LETTER: Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan
Babies switched at birth at Mt Hope, Tobago parents claim $5m compensation
by Anna Ramdass firstname.lastname@example.org
In a legal letter to Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, requesting $5 million in compensation, attorney Ingrid Melville stated that her clients experienced emotional trauma and great shame when they took home a baby of Indian descent believed to be theirs.
On March 10, 2013, two women underwent Caesarean section operations at Mt Hope Women’s Hospital--a mother from Tobago who is of African descent and a mother from Trinidad who is of Indian descent.
They were discharged from the hospital and took home the wrong baby.
Five months later, after the problem was discovered, the babies were returned to their rightful parents.
In a letter dated August 15, Melville wrote to Khan on behalf of the parents and paternal grandmother of the Tobago baby, outlining what happened from the moment the mother was hospitalised in Tobago to the point where the babies were returned to their biological parents.
On March 8, the Tobago mother attended ante natal clinic in Tobago and was informed that bleeding was occurring in her heart as she suffers with a hole in her heart and was admitted to Scarborourgh General Hospital.
On March 10, the mother was transferred to the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital via helicopter.
On March 13, she underwent an emergency Caesarian section.
“Our client instructs that following the operation, when she woke up after the effects of the anaesthetic began to wear off, she was shown the baby girl that she had given birth to. This baby was in a cot next to her bed and tagged with her name,” stated the letter.
On March 16, both mother and baby were discharged from the hospital and returned to Tobago.
The letter said that the mother and her family “noticed that the infant’s hair did not show any signs of developing small curls as is normal with children of African descent”.
It added that this raised a number of questions, particularly among the extended family of the baby on the paternal side—including suspicion of infidelity.
According to the letter, the mother was interrogated with regards to her friendships with East Indian families.
Further, it said that in July the baby was christened and the family faced humiliation.
“Our instructions are that even during the christening, the godparents, friends and other family members kept commenting that the baby looked like an East Indian, only to the embarrassment and dismay of the parents,” stated the letter.
On July 27, three persons from the Mt Hope maternity ward visited the family at their Tobago home, saying they want the baby and mother to travel to Mt Hope for testing.
The letter stated that when the parents enquired why their baby needed to be tested, they were informed that it was for “government business”.
“Our clients became alarmed and attempted to contact the police as we are instructed that they feared a kidnapping,” the letter continued.
It went on to state that on July 30, to the family’s “astonishing honour”, Khan visited their home and explained to them that a mother in Trinidad had their baby and it was agreed that day that the Tobago mother and baby would undergo genetic testing.
The letter said on July 31, there was “utter confusion” and further pain and suffering when a spokesperson for the Trinidad family said that they were in Tobago and wanted to exchange the babies.
On August 2, the mother, baby and paternal grandmother travelled to Trinidad, where genetic testing was done at Genix Diagnostics Ltd.
On August 9. the family was informed that the maternity DNA report proved that the baby was not theirs and on the same day they were contacted by the administrator of the THA Division of Health and Social Services, who said that the Trinidad family and Health Ministry officials will visit Tobago on August 10 via private plane to swap the babies.
On August 10, the babies were returned to their biological parents.
The letter stated that although the family was happy to get back their biological baby, the situation was extremely traumatic for the parents and paternal grandmother.
The parents, said the letter, had a close physical and emotional bond prior to the birth of their baby in March, but since the physical appearance of the baby did not have any resemblance or trait of the parents, it created the impression that the mother was unfaithful.
The letter stated that this caused a wedge in their relationship and “great shame” on the part of the mother.
According to the letter, the mother had a hard time in her childhood as she spent several years at Scarborough Regional Hospital suffering with a hole in her heart.
She also had emotional problems in her family.
“Her new baby, being her first-born child, represented the first building block of her own family. Her baby was born following years of unsuccessfully attempting to conceive,” stated the letter.
It added that the christening ceremony, which the family held to dedicate the baby to God and the church, was of great embarrassment and they now need to dedicate their biological baby but are deeply embarrassed by the present situation.
The letter requested an ex-gratia compensation of $5 million, plus legal fees were listed separately.
The following are the damages listed in the legal letter (names were omitted):
1. Exemplary damages due to organisational failure by Mount Hope Women’s Hospital as evidenced by the mix-up of the babies;
2. Exemplary damages for the breach of duty and of care and/or medical negligence by Mount Hope Women’s Hospital and/or the North Central Regional Health Authority and/or its servants and/or agents and medical personnel at the said hospital on March 13, 2013, through their professional negligence and/or lack of due diligence which said breach caused the mix-up of the babies;
3. Emotional distress, pain, humiliation and suffering caused to the mother, father and paternal grandmother since the birth of the baby. This is ongoing and in regards to the mother this is aggravated by her pre-existing heart condition and trauma experienced in growing up. With regards to the paternal grandmother these damages are aggravated by her pre-existing hypertensive condition;
4. The mix-up in identity suffered by Aaliyah Megan Kimberly. For the first five months of her life she lived with a different family with different cultural practices;
5. Loss of companionship, distress, anxiety and mental anguish of the mother, father and paternal grandmother;
6. Medical expenses including speciality psychiatric support and ongoing psycho social care and support for the baby and her parents and paternal grandmother;
7. Additional ongoing expenses for travel and hotel accommodation to bridge the divide for Aaliyah Megan Kimberly with the Trinidad family on an ongoing basis; and
8. Baptism-related expenses.