Child Death From ‘Negligence’: Family under pressure to compromise
A family has allegedly been under pressure for a compromise, after they complained that their 11-month-old baby had died due to "sheer negligence" by doctors and staffers of a private hospital.
Abdullah Al Sayem and Tanzum Aktar lost their only child Azan around six hours after a surgery at Care Medical College Hospital in the capital on August 22. The baby boy was having breathing difficulties after his surgery for the reconstruction of cleft palate, they said.
The inconsolable parents alleged that there were no doctors either in the post-operative or in the general wards where their baby was kept after the surgery.
When the baby was struggling to breathe, the parents took him to the operation theatre twice, only to be "treated rudely" by the doctors there, they alleged.
Sayam's family submitted separate complaints to the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC) on August 29, seeking justice.
In the complaints, the family alleged that their child died due to "reluctance and negligence of the doctors" and "failure of the hospital authorities".
"But since then, we have been under pressure to compromise," Sayem told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
"Last week, I received a phone call from someone claiming to be a law enforcement official who asked me to withdraw the complaints."
Besides, Sayem said, "The physician who conducted the surgery kept on creating mental pressure on us by making repeated phone calls. I do not want this; I only want justice."
Cleft palate problem is fairly common among newborns. It is a condition whereby a child is born with an opening in the roof of the mouth, making it difficult for children to eat and speak as food and liquid go up through the opening into the nose instead of going down the throat into the stomach.
For a child to be able to speak and swallow normally, the palate needs to be surgically sealed off.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH AZAN
Sayem's son was one of the seven children who had cleft palate surgeries conducted by Dr BK Das Bijoy on August 22 at the hospital. It was part of a free campaign funded by a US-based charity.
Dr Bijoy conducted the surgery on Azan from 2:30pm to 4:15pm, said Sayem and Tanzum.
After the surgery, the unconscious boy was kept in the post-operative ward, and was shifted to the general ward around 7:00pm.
"There was no doctor either in the post-operative ward or in the general ward. As our baby continued to have breathing difficulties, we took him to the operation theatre twice. Each time, the doctors, including Dr Bijoy, misbehaved with us," the parents alleged in their written complaint.
"The duty nurse forced us to feed our unconscious baby medicine syrup, after which our baby's condition turned severe. But this time too, Dr Bijoy rudely said this is not a problem and drove us from the operation theatre around 9:00pm.
"After we took our baby back to the general ward, he died around 10:00pm.
"As our child had previous neurological complications, we showed all previous prescriptions and test reports to Dr Bijoy. But he said there is no link between the surgery and those issues."
The family alleged that the admission date of their child has been mentioned in the death certificate as August 22, instead of August 21.
In the death certificate, the cause of death was written as "aspiration pneumonia", a lung infection caused by inhaled oral or gastric contents.
Dr Bijoy, however, told The Daily Star that the baby died after developing "laryngospasm", a spasm of the vocal cords that temporarily makes it difficult to speak or breathe.
Laryngospasm typically lasts less than 60 seconds, but in some cases can last up to 20 to 30 minutes and cause a partial blocking of breathing in, while breathing out remains easier, according to medical experts.
Three physicians, including a child specialist, told this correspondent that laryngospasm is not fatal while aspiration pneumonia can become serious if left untreated.
Laryngospasm or aspiration pneumonia cannot lead to the death of any baby within several hours. There must be some associated reasons," Dr AKM Shafayat Lashkar, a child physician at Modern Hospital Shofipur in Gazipur, told The Daily Star.
Another child specialist, who works as an assistant professor at the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) in the capital, agrees to this.
"There might be some other reasons behind the death of the baby. Maybe the baby was not fit for the surgery, but the anaesthesiologist was unaware of it," the physician told this newspaper, seeking anonymity.
Contacted on September 11, Dr Bijoy said, "I admit that the issue could have been handled differently if a doctor was present there [at the general ward] at the moment."
He, however, dismissed the allegation of misbehaving with the parents.
Talking to The Daily Star again on Sunday, Dr Bijoy said he has no idea about the phone calls from any other person to Sayem. About his repeated phone calls to Sayem, he said, "I have nothing but to offer condolences to them. That was my only purpose."
Contacted on Tuesday, Dr Golam Murshed Sumon, a director of Care hospital, declined to comment. "The issue is under investigation. We have no comment at this moment."
Meanwhile, the BMDC on September 9 issued a notice to Dr Bijoy asking a written explanation within 15 days.
Besides, the DGHS has directed state-owned Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital to investigate the issue and submit a report.
Dr Khalilur Rahman, director of Suhrawardy hospital told The Daily Star yesterday, "We have formed a committee earlier this week. They have been asked to submit the investigation report within 10 working days."