Zimbabwe: Family Sues Doctors for Negligence

19 August 2020

The family of a man who died of a brain injury during surgery three years ago has filed a lawsuit demanding over US$354 000 compensation and damages from two doctors, alleging negligence resulted in the death of their bread winner.

Ms Linda Chakavanda and her two children on Monday filed the suit at the High Court against the anaesthetist, and the urologist who performed the surgery. The two attended the late Christopher Chakavanda at West End Hospital on May 6, 2017.

Chakavanda died of brain injury during the operation. The suit comes after the two were both found by their regulatory authority to be negligent after they pleaded guilty.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the Government is setting up the Coroner-General charged with carrying out thorough independent investigations into deaths in hospitals, prisons, police cells and other places.

In the claim, filed at the High Court on Monday, the Chakavanda family is claiming damages in the sum of US$354 000 for loss of support, emotional grief and trauma among other claims.

Mrs Chakavanda stated in her claim that her husband was in May 2017 referred to a specialist urologist by Dr Mataruse, a physician who was dealing with a complaint of palpitations, raised blood pressure and a headache.

She said the urologist was to perform a left adrenalectomy. This specialist procedure of necessity required the employment of an anaesthetist, amongst other professionals.

The urologist then assembled a team of five experts, which included the anaesthetist, after Mr Chakavanda consented to the operation.

Mrs Chakavanda claims that the two doctors allegedly carried out the procedure negligently,by failing to do adequate pre-operative assessment, planning and preparation for the surgical operation. She said when her husband's vitals began to deteriorate, this was not communicated to the surgical team. She also claimed that the anaesthetist had no back-up plan to deal with possible problems, had not prepared the patient adequately, and had not consulted the referring physician.

Further, the family argue that the doctors had no joint management plan for the patient, which included ensuring that safety measures such as a readily available ICU bed were in place at the time of the procedure.

"The result was that the deceased could not be placed in the ICU for approximately three hours after the procedure," she said.

"As a result of the defendants' negligence, the deceased had a cardiac arrest whilst on the operating table."

An attempt to induce a coma to speed recovery led to five days on oxygen support until Mr Chakavanda was confirmed to be brain dead on May 21. It was confirmed that he died of hypoxic brain injury that occurred during the procedure. Mrs Chakavanda became aware of all the facts leading to the cause of action last year in November when she was advised by the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe that her husband had died during the medical procedure, contrary the two doctors' version that he was in an induced coma up until May 21 2017.

The High Court has over the years been inundated with lawsuits against medical practitioners who negligently cause the death of patients.

A Karoi woman in 2017 took a medical doctor to the High Court claiming damages amounting to $400 000 after her husband died during an ill-performed operation.

Ms Jane Mazhambe filed the lawsuit in the High Court through her lawyers claiming $86 095 in school fees for her three minor children, $17 020 for the completion of the construction of the family's house, $261 338 for the minors' food, health care and ancillary expenses and $52 000 for utility bills and her health care as well.

Last year, a Mutare farmer Mr James Makununura, who lost his wife due to medical negligence successfully sued a doctor for $20 000. Mrs Miriam Makununura sought medical attention for fibroids from the specialist in 2010 but was discharged without her hypertension being catered for.

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