Wed | Aug 16, 2017

When doctors foul up - Lawyer seeking more than $1M for family of policewoman who died after botched surgery

Published:Sunday | August 21, 2016 | 8:00 AMBarbara Gayle
Williams

Attorney-at-law Anthony Williams is hoping to send a message to professionals, particularly medical personnel, as he embarks on a legal battle to seek compensation for the son of a policewoman who died from an alleged botched operation.

"We want to make it clear that all professionals ought to be careful, but there ought to be a greater level of care, on the part of doctors because, in their case the end result of negligence can be loss of life, which cannot be compensated for," Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.

The attorney noted that even if the patients do not die from negligent acts of medical personnel, they could end up with serious physical disabilities.

In this case, it is alleged that negligence on the part of medical personnel resulted in the death of woman sergeant Desrene Watson in August 2010.

According to the claim, certification that all the instruments and gauze used during the surgery of the 41-year-old policewoman were incorrect, and that mistake led to her death.

A post-mortem later revealed that gauze was left in her body after the surgery and this eventually infected her blood stream.

SIMPLE PROCEDURE

Watson had gone to a medical centre on July 30, 2010 to do a surgical procedure and was released the same day. According to Williams, the procedure was a simple one, but complications arose and Watson started to experience acute abdominal pains.

It is outlined in court documents that corrective surgery was done on August 6, 2010, but Watson suffered from severe sepsis, severe generalised peritonitis, multiple organ complications, among other things, which led to her death.

Williams said the peritonitis was so severe that her lungs were inflamed. Peritonitis is an infection of the membranes of the abdominal walls and organs.

According to Williams, Watson was rushed to a government hospital shortly after the corrective surgery, but by then the gauze had led to an infection of her blood stream and her white blood count was high.

He said that even during the corrective surgery, the gauze was not discovered and it was during the post-mortem that the discovery was made.

Williams, who is representing Watson's son who was a minor at the time of her death, told our news team that he wants to send a message on behalf of his client that professionals, including lawyers, are not immune from negligence suits.

"The worst thing now is what they did because all the instruments and swabs must be counted off before the start of the surgery, and after the surgery, a certification must be made," said Williams.

A coroner's inquest was held to determine if anyone was criminally responsible for Watson's death, but a jury found that no one was criminally responsible.

Williams said while he agreed with the verdict, because manslaughter did not arise: "It is the contention of the claimant that there was medical negligence because the swabs were not properly counted," said Williams.

"They certified that all swabs were accounted for, then how was one left in her body?" Williams queried.

Last month, the Administrator General's Department (AGD) filed a claim for negligence and breach of contract against a doctor and the medical centre on behalf of Watson's estate.

Special damages of $1.3 million is also being sought. This includes some legal costs and funeral expenses.

Williams explained that the AGD filed the suit because Watson's son was a minor when she died without making a will.

The defendants named in the suit have 14 days to acknowledge service of the claim and then file their defence.