Dillon Puckree. Supplied
Dillon Puckree. Supplied

Durban Magistrate accuses KZN hospital of ’playing God’ as assault victim dies

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Jul 25, 2021

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Durban: A KwaDukuza mother was left wondering this week whether her son would have overcome the fatal injuries he sustained after he was assaulted by a few men.

Pushparani Puckree’s son Dillin, 24, needed emergency neurosurgical treatment to overcome head injuries he sustained when he was assaulted on September 9, 2017, but medics at the Chief Albert Luthuli Hospital opted to “let him die” because his chances of survival were slim.

He died in hospital the following day.

Puckree did not have medical aid which could have afforded Dillin the opportunity to access private medical care and possibly save his life.

Ruvaal Mudali and Ashiel Brijlal, the accused involved in the assault on Dillin, appeared before Magistrate Anand Maharaj this week for judgment in the matter when Maharaj pointed out a glaring shortcoming in the country’s public health system.

He mentioned that medical practitioners at State health facilities “play God” due to limited resources in deciding who gets specialised treatment and those who won’t.

Maharaj said such determinations went against the country’s Constitution, which prescribed that “everyone has the right to life”, and, particularly in Dillin’s case, “nobody should be refused emergency medical treatment”.

Dillin, who was in an unconscious state after the assault, was rushed to the local Stanger hospital and treated there.

He underwent a CT Scan, and it was diagnosed he needed neurosurgical intervention.

Despite Stanger’s medics intubating and placing Dillin on the ventilator, he was refused the required treatment from a specialist at Chief Luthuli Hospital because his Glasgow coma scale reading (level of consciousness after an injury to the brain) was too low.

Dillin died the following day.

Mudali was convicted on a charge of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm (GBH) and received a five-year jail sentence, which was wholly suspended for five years, provided he did not repeat the offence.

He was also instructed to pay R50 000 to Puckree. Brijlal was found not guilty.

Preston Naidoo, who by some accounts in court, played a prominent role in the assault on Dillin, entered into a plea agreement with State in January 2020.

The assault occurred at a popular KwaDukuza hangout, during the early hours of September 9, near a pub and service station.

Some of the action was captured on CCTV.

The assault on Dillin occurred when he was felled by a punch from Naidoo, and others joined in.

After being on the receiving end of a series of punches and kicks, at some point, Dillin attempted to sit up, but he was kicked in the head by Mudali, and that caused his head to hit the tarmac.

He bled from his head and mouth and never regained consciousness.

Naidoo pleaded guilty to a charge of assault-GBH and was handed a five-year suspended sentence with conditions by another magistrate.

As part of his agreement with the State, he also testified as an accomplice witness in the separate trial of Mudali and Brijlal.

Before the agreement, Naidoo, Mudali and Brijlal were charged with murder.

When handing his judgment, Maharaj said through the testimony of two medical practitioners he was able to deduce that the assault caused Dillin’s death.

However, he rated the submissions of the other witnesses to generally be contradictory, incongruent, embellished and of poor quality.

He singled out Naidoo’s evidence to be unreliable, contradictory and questioned whether it was completely objective because he read the statements of witnesses in the matter.

Maharaj said it was “folly on the part of the State” to have entered into an agreement with Naidoo as evidence showed he was the “main actor”.

Once the State entered into the agreement, it took away the possibilities of securing murder or culpable convictions in this matter.

He said it would have been more “prudent and strategic” to have all the alleged perpetrators charged together and “let the dice roll”.

The agreement was “intrinsically unfair” and caused the State to “score an own goal in the matter”.

He noted that the State had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt to secure murder or culpable homicide charges against the two accused.

Maharaj doubted whether Brijlal was an active participant in the assault because CCTV footage showed he had gone to the shop and walked back casually while the attack on Dillin carried on.

But stated Mudali was actively involved in punching and kicking Dillin in his face.

He asked that his judgment be handed to Durban's chief prosecutor, KZN’s director of public prosecutions and KZN’s MEc for health to take cognisance of his findings.

Maharaj said video evidence showed a police van was parked near the crime scene, but no policemen intervened or rendered any assistance, which should have already been the subject of an investigation.

Puckree said she felt let down by the court outcomes.

“It is unfair and I am disappointed. The perpetrators are back with the families and I’m left without a son,” she said.

The Sunday Tribune

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