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A Pretoria High Court judge will call doctors who were on duty at the Pretoria West Hospital at the time when two-month-old Baby Wade was treated there – a week before he died in another hospital of brain and other injuries – to establish whether his parents could be held responsible for his death.
Judge Cynthia Pretorius wanted to know from accused Marissa Rudman and her former lover Nolan Schoeman whether they blamed that hospital for the death of their son. The judge said she battled to understand the couple’s defence regarding Baby Wade’s injuries.
The baby died in the Steve Biko Hospital. He had such extensive brain injuries that the court was told that part of his brain had already died by the time he was admitted. The baby also had 22 fractured ribs, two broken forearms which were in the process of healing and bruises all over his body.
A doctor who examined the body after his death on April 7, 2009, said the bruises and injuries were so severe and visible that anyone could see them with the naked eye.
Yet both Rudman and Schoeman, who bathed the baby and cared for him, swore under oath they never saw any injuries – apart from a few bruises around his face and head.
They explained that they were under the impression the marks they noticed on the baby’s face were a result of the treatment he had received at Pretoria West Hospital.
The baby was taken to that hospital a week before his death, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.
Rudman, however, discharged the baby as she believed “the doctors did not know what they were doing”.
The nurses and doctors at one stage held the baby down to enable them to insert a drip into his head, she said.
Judge Pretorius said on Monday that after she had read through all the evidence, it was still unclear whether the parents are blaming the Pretoria West Hospital for their child’s fate.
She asked the counsel for each accused whether their clients felt that the staff at Pretoria West Hospital were to blame for the baby’s “horrendous” injuries, especially the brain damage which caused his death.
Rudman, through her advocate, said she believed the hospital was responsible for some of the marks on the baby’s face, but not for the other major injuries, such as the brain damage.
Schoeman was vague on this point earlier in his evidence. He claimed he was under the influence of drugs and could not remember everything clearly, but now said he blamed all the injuries on the Pretoria West Hospital.
The judge said she was going to re-call the doctor who treated Baby Wade at the Pretoria West Hospital and any other doctor there who treated him at the time.
This would be to the advantage of the accused, she said, after they had tried in vain to obtain a paediatrician to testify on their behalf that the injuries of the baby were not clearly visible.
Judge Pretorius turned down an application by the State to have two child abuse charges against the couple amended. It emerged that they were charged under the previous Child Care Act.
The judge only gave her ruling and said she would deliver her judgment on this later.
The prosecution will still try to obtain a guilty verdict on these charges. The accusations levelled against the accused basically remained the same as what they would have been under the new act.
The murder charge is not affected.
Members of the Child Abuse Action Group attended Monday’s hearing. Lucy Redivo, spokeswoman for the group, said they would keep an eye on the trial until the end.
“The facts are just shocking and we would like to see justice done,” she said.
The case will resume on Wednesday.