Center for Health Human Rights and Development, et al. v. Nakaseke District Local Administration

Civil Suit No. 111 of 2012
Download Judgment: English

Nanteza Irene, the deceased, was taken to Nakaseke Hospital for obstetric care and management in order to deliver a child. The plaintiffs asserted that she died because she had an obstructed labor condition and did not receive appropriate medical care and attention. The assigned doctor on duty for the day that she went to the hospital was absent. This doctor was assigned to manage her condition and the birth of her child. This action was brought to seek both general and punitive damages against the defendant, the local government that had administrative oversight over Nakaseke Hospital.

The defendant argued that there was a doctor on duty at the hospital, and that there was no negligence of care, that she was adequately managed while she was in the hospital, that there was no violation of her constitutional rights, and that the hospital administration gave her the appropriate medical care.

The issues addressed were: (1) Whether the deceased’s human and health rights were violated by defendant, (2) whether the children’s rights were violated by the defendant upon the death of the deceased as a wife and a mother, (3) whether the defendant was liable, and (4) the available remedies.

The evidence showed the following: Nanteza had labor pains and was taken to Nakaseke Hospital. Once she arrived, she was taken to the maternity ward and admitted by 1:35pm. Upon arrival, her membrane had already ruptured. Nanfuka Esther, DW2, testified that because Nanteza had an early rupture she could not handle the delivery by herself and she confirmed this was a sign of obstructed labor. “Obstructed labour, if not attended to, could result in death.” Since it was an emergency, she was required to call the doctor. She called Dr. Mubeezi, the doctor on duty, four times. The doctor on duty was absent. Nanteza did not receive the appropriate expected obstetric care to aid safe delivery of her child, due to the absence of the doctor on duty. The form filled out by defendant indicated the duration of the stay of Nanteza before death as being 8 hours and the cause of death as ruptured uterus secondary to anemia.

The Court held that the deceased’s constitutional right to basic medical care was violated due to the fact that the doctor on duty was absent. The Court found that because the doctor was absent, the deceased had not received the care required to overcome the condition she was in, a violation of her rights. The Court also found that this violated the rights of the deceased’s children and spouse under the Constitution.

The Court found that there was a preponderance of evidence that the deceased was in need of immediate and urgent obstetric care and that a condition of obstructed labor would lead to death of a mother and child, unless attended to with urgency and that her condition needed attendance, management and intervention of a senior doctor. The Court also held that the deceased had not received adequate care due to neglect of duty by the doctor on duty, and therefore the deceased’s children and spouse have been denied the care and companionship of their mother and wife, which is recognized in the constitution as a flagrant act of neglect of duty by the doctor on duty.

The Court held that the defendant was liable in damages for the violation of the human and maternal rights of the deceased and her children.

“[The deceased] did not receive the appropriate expected obstetric care to aid safe delivery of her child arising from a condition of obstructed labour that she was entitled to and for which, DW4, as a doctor on duty, was required to give as a health professional.”

“DW4 [the doctor on duty] had by the time of the trial been promoted to the Medical Superintendent to Nakaseke Hospital. No doubt, this elevation, gave DW4, considerable influence on most of the defendant witnesses that testified in this case, such as DW3. It is quite shocking, that a person such as a DW4 who bore the most responsibility for the death of the deceased and her child, and who as a consummate liar, as tired to cover it up the unfortunate death out of negligence of duty, was able to secure promotion to the position of Medical Superintendent. In respect to the circumstances of this case, DW4, ought not, in my opinion, hold any position of responsibility in any hospital.”