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Province sued over botched circumcision

By Sharika Regchand Time of article published Mar 26, 2013

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Durban - His parents say he was once a happy and carefree child, but is now depressed and disfigured, the result of a botched circumcision at the hands of a “lazy, incompetent and disinterested doctor” at the Vryheid Provincial Hospital four years ago.

The mother of the nine-year-old, whose name is being withheld, sued the provincial health department on behalf of her son in the Pietermaritzburg High Court and on Monday won the first leg of the battle, with the department conceding liability.

She is claiming R4.1million in damages but the final amount of financial compensation will only be decided by a judge when the matter comes before the court again in June.

The mother’s attorney, Kobus Olivier, said the department should have settled this matter sooner.

The mother said her son underwent the circumcision operation in October 2009.

Afterwards he had suffered severe burning, infections and a loss of his normal penile tissue.

She said it was very difficult for him and there had been a big change in his life.

“He went through a lot of anxiety, fear and psychological trauma. He also lost his self-confidence,” she said, recalling days when her son would have panic attacks and times when she could not do anything to help him feel better.

She said the injury would affect his sexual performance in the future and he would need further surgery.

According to the particulars of the claim, the doctor had not exercised reasonable professional care and skill in attempting to perform the circumcision, and had applied incorrect practices and or procedures for the performance of a penis circumcision operation and burnt the penis when he should have known it would have caused the injuries and permanent disfigurement. He also failed to provide the child with adequate post-operative treatment.

As a result of the surgery, the boy experienced severe pain and suffering. He had been disfigured, would have to go for medical treatment and penis reconstruction and had suffered physical and emotional trauma with associated psychological complications. He would also suffer a loss of earnings and earning capacity, it was argued.

Paul McGarr, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, said in a report before the court that he was “completely amazed by the inertia, lack of a sense of urgency and lack of sensitivity shown by the doctors” who initially managed the child.

McGarr went into detail as to how the child’s injury had occurred and commented that the standard of practice and aftercare at the hospital constituted gross negligence by staff failing to follow the most basic principles of surgery.

“The words lazy, incompetent and disinterested accurately describe the treating doctor’s actions,” he said.

“In essence, nine minutes of a rushed, incompetent circumcision has significantly and severely impacted on (the child) for the rest of his life.”

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The Mercury

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