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A High Court judge on Wednesday ruled in favour of a Sangre Grande couple who sued the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) for negligence in the death of their newborn baby on January 12, 2005.

A High Court judge on Wednesday ruled in favour of a Sangre Grande couple who sued the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) for negligence in the death of their newborn baby on January 12, 2005.

However, it was a bitter-sweet victory for parents Deonath Ramkissoon and Denecia Sookram, who were awarded a paltry sum of $22,000 for the death of their child. It was because of the failure of a nurse to burp the infant. The distraught parents slammed the justice system and called for a review of awards in medical negligence cases. They have also instructed their attorneys, Anand Ramlogan and Marissa Ramsoondar, to consider appealing the matter because the sum awarded was too low.

Following the judgment by Justice Vasheist Kokaram, via video conferencing, in the San Fernando High Court, the parents said even though the issue was never about money, the inconsequential sum cannot compensate for the loss of their child, Aaron Ramkissoon, who lived only one day. “We won the case against the ERHA. The lawyers did their best, but I find the amount awarded is so unfair,” said Sookram, 31, a supermarket employee. Her husband works with a security company. “In the four years this matter lasted, we had to take time off from our work, pay a car to bring us to San Fernando, two, three times a month. After all of that and the loss of your child it is really ridiculous,” Sookram said.

Believing they will have been awarded a higher sum, Sookram said they had planned to use some of the money to help a sick child and families in distress. “This sum cannot cover quarter of the expenses over the years,” she added. Justice Kokaram agreed with the statement of Sookram that the cause of death of baby Aaron was consistent with not burping. In her witness statement, Sookram recalled how she gave birth to a healthy baby. She said around 2.30 am on January 12, she breast-fed her baby and placed him on her shoulder to burp him, when he started to cry. She testified that a nurse stormed into the room and shouted at her and ordered a nursing assistant to take the child away from her.

Sookram said she informed them she had not burped him, and thought since they were professionals and this was her first delivery, they would do the right thing. However, she said around 5 am when she awoke her baby was not in the cot and when she inquired about his whereabouts the nurses spoke to her roughly and informed her the baby had trouble breathing and they had placed him on oxygen. Around 11 am that day she was told her child had died. “If I had complications, I could have accepted it, but I gave birth to a healthy baby. Up until now I have a hollow in my heart. I cannot play with baby boys. My husband so wanted a baby boy, but I am afraid to get pregnant again,” she said.

Lawyer speaks:
Attorney Ramlogan echoed the call for an urgent review in the level of damages awarded in baby deaths and medical negligence cases. “Such sums will encourage instead of deterring such medical negligent cases,” he said, recalling the matter with Rana Ramlal, who was awarded $7,500 after her uterus was ruptured by medical personnel in trying to burst a polyp. He said repeated his call to the Health Minister Jerry Narace to establish an independent Medical Complaints Council to evaluate complaints of such cases and produce a report that was admissible in court.

Extracted From: Trinidad Guardian Newspaper
Thu, 2009-12-17

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