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Court Awards R5 Million in Damages to Parents for Newborn's Death Due to Hospital Negligence

Published December 29, 2023
7 months ago

Bloemfontein, South Africa - The Bloemfontein High Court has delivered a significant judgment just before Christmas, bringing a measure of solace to a family devastated by the loss of their child due to admitted hospital negligence. The Free State Department of Health has been ordered to compensate the parents, only identified by their initials in court documents, with more than R5 million for the tragic loss of their two-day-old son, who died as a consequence of inadequate care at the Pelonomi Hospital in 2013.

The hospital staff's failure to appropriately attend to the mother during her labor led to a string of disastrous outcomes that could have been avoided. The mother was left largely unattended despite being in active labor. An emergency caesarean section was prepared for but never carried out, ultimately resulting in a vaginal birth which was mishandled, causing the newborn to suffer from brain damage that led to his untimely demise.

The court's judgment was not just about the monetary compensation; it also illuminated the profound emotional and psychological impact the incident had on the parents. Acting Judge NG Gusha, in her ruling, emphasized the joy and the profound responsibilities of motherhood, stating that to be given the task to bring new life into the world is a supreme blessing and love. The judge poignantly noted that this joy was unjustly and cruelly taken from the parents due to the hospital's admitted negligence.

The mother was awarded approximately R5.1 million, while the father was granted close to R400,000 for their suffering and loss. This compensation, though deeply warranted, pales in comparison to the pain experienced by the parents, and especially the mother, who suffered severe psychological and physical trauma following the events surrounding her son's birth and death. For three years, she battled with heavy bleeding, severe depression, social withdrawal, memory issues, and insomnia, and she tragically attempted to take her own life twice.

The father's encounter with hospital negligence was equally horrific. He recounts finding his wife bleeding profusely and unattended in a hospital corridor and his subsequent attempts to get help for her being met with resistance. His wife was eventually transferred to Universitas hospital, where she had to be hospitalized for over two weeks.

Justice Gusha described the emotional testimony from the mother as one of the most heart-rending experiences in her judicial career. She emphasized that no human should be subjected to the mistreatment the mother endured. With this judgment, the parents can now begin to find closure, having since visited their son's grave, a "ray of sunshine" in this dark episode.

The case serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of medical negligence and highlights the necessity for accountability in the healthcare system. It is a call to action for all healthcare institutions to practice the highest standards of care and compassion to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.

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