Makgetla v. The Member of the Executive Council, Free State Province

Case No. 1054/2016
Download Judgment: English
Country: South Africa
Region: Africa
Year: 2014
Court: The High Court of South Africa, Free State Division
Health Topics: Health care and health services, Hospitals, Medical malpractice
Human Rights: Right to health
Tags: Damages, Duty of care, Health facilities, Negligence, Primary care, Public hospitals, Standard of care

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent in causing burn wounds during a thyroid lobectomy operation. She stated that she was not explained the possible complications of the operation. After the effect of Anaesthesia wore off, she complained of severe back pain but was not attended to immediately.

The Court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims without costs. The Court stated that the plaintiff failed to prove her case and three surgeons who testified stated that the cause of the burns were speculative in nature. On the contrary, there was enough evidence to show that proper precautions were taken to prevent any injury.

All three surgeons shared the same view that what caused the burn wounds sustainded by Ms Makgetla would be speculative. Mr Ngumle pressed hard upon me to reject the evidence of Dr Buchel that he took pre-operative precautionary care in preventing injury to Ms Makgetla as, so he argued, there was no documented evidence as to such care being taken. I can not agree with him. Dr Buchell struck me as an honest witness and a physician who takes pride in his work. I am satisfied that Dr Buchell and all the other medical personell involved in the operation on Ms Makgetla, took all the reasonable preventative steps expected of them to avoid burn wounds to Ms Makgetla..” (Para 15)

I have already stated that Ms Makgetla impressed me as a witness. Like the medical witnesses of the Defendant I have great sympathy for her. Broude supra warns me not to infer negligence due to such sympathy. The Plaintiff bore the onus to prove negligence of the Defendant on a preponderance of probabilities. The evidence reveal none. Mr Ngumle on behalf of Ms Makgetla did what he could to convince me otherwise. The upshot is that the claim stands to be dismissed.” (Para 17)