In Liberia, government officials often shun government ran hospitals and local clinics due to lack of confidence in these medical centers, with many of them opting to travel to India, South Africa, Ghana or the United States of America for medical checkups and treatments.
But when Ebola struck in 2014, the entire country was left with no option but to rely on local hospitals and clinics despite their poor qualities.
It was during the height of the Ebola epidemic that the daughter of lawmaker Edward Forh was rushed to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, commonly known as JFK Hospital. He said his 21-year-old daughter had asthma, alas; she died at the hospital while waiting to be attended to.
He filed a US$25 million suit in damages against JFK Hospital for what he termed as “wrongful death of his daughter” was the first of its kind in the country.
Forh who represents District #16 in Montserrado daughter was the queen of Stella Maris Polytechnic. Nakita Forh died September 27, 2015.
In his complaint to the Civil Law Court, Rep. Forh accused 11 personnel of the JFK Hospital including its Chief Medical Officer Dr. Billy Johnson of being responsible for the death of his daughter. He accused them of refusing to attend to his daughter at the hospital.
The case was called for hearing early September 2016 and several witnesses took the stand for the plaintiff (which is Rep. Forh) including Representative Forh, Dr. Moses Pewu and Nyanquoi Kargbo, among others.
While the public expected several strong pieces of instruments to be admitted into evidence by Rep. Forh, he to the surprise of many, brought before the court as evidence, pictures of Nakita’s graduation, beauty pageant in which she emerged queen, her AA degree, and pictures of her lying on the bare floor at the JFK Hospital and an investigative report from the Liberia Medical and Dental Council.
During their testimonies, Rep. Forh described the action of the hospital as wicked adding that the hospital intentionally neglected his daughter to death.
According to Rep. Forh, based on the J.F.K personnel’s refusal, he was compelled to take his daughter home while she was still alive and returned to the hospital the following day on September 27, 2015 and again appealed to the hospital as they again refused to see and care for his daughter and she later died on the hospital’s compound in the presence of the hospital’s personnel.
During the trial, the Forh said that the “negligent and reckless” attitude towards his daughter who was dying and asking for help from those who had taken oath to do so caused psychological pains, mental anguish, emotional distress and frustrations.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing plaintiff (Forh) prays the court to rule and adjudge the defendants liable to the plaintiff not less than US$10 million in general damages, US$5 million punitive damages, US$5 million in compensatory damages and US$5 million in consequential damages,” Rep. Forh told the court.
He testified that his daughter was an asthma patient who had experienced several attacks but was taken to the Snapper Hill before the J.F.K. Hospital.
Dr. Pewu and Kargbo agreed to statements attributed to Representative Forh and said the hospital misdiagnoses killed the patient. The doctors blamed the hospital and found them liable of breaching the ethics of the medical profession.
On Wednesday the jurors brought down a non-liable verdict in favor of the Hospital – a verdict that shocked Forh.
If Rep. Forh had produced the doctor (Dr. Solomon Fyneah) that he previously interacted with at the Snapper Hill, he could be a boast of his case.
All through the trial, the defendant alleged that the failure of Rep. Forh to follow instructions at the Hospital led to the death of his daughter, adding that his reckless refusal to take his daughter for Ebola clearance before receiving treatment was the cause of her death.
“Rep. Forh must take the responsibility of his daughter’s death on his failure to pass through the Ebola Unit for screening for his daughter to be admitted,” the defense argued during final argument Wednesday.
It was a policy at the JFK Hospital at the time that patients coming in for treatment were to pass through the Ebola Treatment Unit for screening before being passed on for medical treatment.
If Representative Forh had adequately sponsored the Redemption Hospital which is in his district, he wouldn’t have driven almost over an hour to JFK for his daughter’s health.
When the charge was given by Judge Yusif Kaba, he said the verdict should be based on the evidence produced by the plaintiff.
He told the jurors that punitive damage could not be recovered because government could not be punished for its actions.
Representative Forh must rightly tell the world why his daughter was bleeding as stated by a laboratory result from Poly Clinic.
In Law, one who files a complaint has the greater responsibility to proof that the complaint filed is genuine.
Though the trial was awarded to JFK, it was an example and warning that the oath taken by health workers should be prioritized as many other cases would come.
A renowned hospital like JFK should be an example for smaller hospitals to follow. Building a resilient health sector calls for all hands being on deck to improve the sector.
By Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo/ firstname.lastname@example.org