R40m damages claim for medical student

Published Dec 4, 2016

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Durban - Mahalutchmee and Soobiah Naidoo of Phoenix once pinned their hopes for a better life on their daughter Deavashini graduating from medical school.

But their dreams the first-year student would become a doctor one day were dashed when she ended up in a “vegetative” state after a hospital stay for check-ups in August 2000.

She was studying medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Nelson Mandela Medical School at the time and had complained of a headache. She had jaundice-like symptoms when she was admitted to King Dinuzulu (formerly King George) Hospital.

However, her family claim that while in hospital Deavashini, who obtained seven As during her matric year and won Avonford Secondary’s dux award in 1999, contracted TB and meningitis, which eventually spread to her brain.

Now her mother, Mahalutchmee Naidoo, has claimed that the “negligence” of the hospital’s nursing and medical staff in diagnosing and caring for Deavashini, is what left their daughter physically and mentally disabled.

When approached for comment, the Department of Health’s spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi said: “The department notes matters raised and would like to advise that it is not the policy of the department to discuss such matters with the media”.

Naidoo recently instructed law firm Sigamoney Inc to issue a letter of demand outlining the basis of a

R40 million damages claim to the Department of Health.

The payout demand also provided for the past 16 years during which Naidoo, 72, and her 78-year-old husband took on the role of caregivers to Deavashini.

Now the elderly couple, both with ailments of their own, have concerns about Deavashini’s future well-being, especially when they die.

“Our business was doing well but it required a lot of hard work.

“Before Deavashini fell sick she felt pity for my husband and I. She often told us that there would be no need for us to work when she finished her studies,” said an emotional Naidoo.

She said when her daughter fell ill she felt awkward to be treated at King Edward Hospital, because some of her fellow students were training there.

Instead, she opted for King George Hospital.

“While in hospital, Deavashini continued to be the active and bubbly person we knew her to be.

“She even studied for an exam in her hospital bed and was permitted to visit home on weekends.

“I remember on the day (October 19) her condition worsened suddenly, her friends visited her at hospital and they had lots of laughs.”

Naidoo said the medics told her Deavashini’s blood pressure had become extremely high and that she needed brain surgery.

After initially refusing the procedure, which had to be performed at Wentworth Hospital, Naidoo agreed.

But hopelessness overwhelmed Naidoo even before Deavashini was placed on the surgeon’s table.

“A doctor said to me ‘don’t waste your time with surgery, your daughter will be a cabbage’.”

The operation made no difference to Deavashini’s condition, but Naidoo claimed, medics at Wentworth expressed their dissatisfaction with the “disgraceful” treatment her daughter had received at King George HospitalA 10-month stay at King George Hospital followed

for the “critically ill” Deavashini .

“We visited her every day and we could see she was being neglected. She would usually be wrapped in blankets, and sweat and froth would run down her face, but the nursing staff would ignore her.

“I don’t think they even cared to feed her properly,” Naidoo alleged.

Fed up with her daughter’s plight, Naidoo asked the consulting doctor to sign her discharge, and she was taken home in a private ambulance.

“A doctor was reluctant to sign the discharge, and said if she were to die, it would be my fault.

“My response was at least she would die in my hands rather than in hospital, where she was not cared for.”

Naidoo said when she examined her daughter’s body at home, she found five bedsores that were deep enough for her to fist to fit in.

“When she questioned the hospital doctor about the bedsores, he said the nurses had not informed him of them.

“The doctor asked us not report the matter to the authorities and offered to send a wound specialist and medication to our home.

“I accepted his offer, but the supply of medication was erratic. I got my own GP to treat Deavashini and her sores were healed.”

Naidoo claimed that

when she threatened to lay charges against the hospital’s doctor, he allegedly told her that Devashini’s medical records had been destroyed and Naidoo didn’t follow through until the recent letter of demand.

Sunday Tribune

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