New law to penalise negligent doctors 

Source: New law to penalise negligent doctors | The Herald June 12, 2019

New law to penalise negligent doctors

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
THE net is closing in on negligent medical practitioners following Government’s decision to set up an office of the Coroner-General charged with carrying out thorough independent investigations into deaths in hospitals, prisons, police cells and any other places.

This comes amid an outcry over some surgeons whose negligence gets to an extent where a pair of scissors is left in a woman’s womb.

The High Court has over the years been inundated with lawsuits against medical practitioners who negligently cause the death of patients.

In most cases, negligent practitioners get away with murder because they usually cover up for each other.

Cabinet recently approved the Coroner’s Office Bill, which seeks to create an independent and fully-fledged office to effectively and impartially investigate unnatural deaths.

It will also put an end to the shortage of forensic pathologists, which is slowing down the investigation and prosecution of murder and robbery cases.

The Bill is now at Parliament stage.

The office is expected to impartially carry out post-mortems, when necessary, and come up with forensic reports for use in court.

Coroners will also testify in court, replacing doctors who shy away from giving evidence for fear of being grilled.

Director of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mr Charles Manhiri, who drafted the Bill, said the office will be fully skilled to carry out independent investigations.

“The Coroner’s Office will be headed by the Coroner-General. The Coroner-General will work with a skilled team of coroners. The office is meant to provide independent and impartial investigation into circumstances surrounding unnatural deaths like homicide, infanticide, suicides, accidents.

“It also investigates deaths that occur within 24 hours of admission in hospital, or deaths that occur during a surgical operation.

“Investigations will also be carried out when people die in police custody or in prison,” he said.

Mr Manhiri said if bad or dangerous practices are established against medical practitioners or any other institutions, the independent body will present the evidence to the relevant authorities for appropriate action to be taken.

“If there are dangerous or bad practices involved, according the coroner’s findings, appropriate recommendations. If the bad practice relates to the hospital or the police, the investigations will be done independent of those institutions to establish the truth without any bias,” he said.

Meanwhile Government is investigating the conduct of a prominent gynaecologist who performed a surgical operation which claimed the life of the oral health director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Mandy Sibanda, recently.

Dr Sibanda is one of many victims in cases involving the same gynaecologist (name withheld) who also stands accused of wrongly discharging her duties.

Although the Medicines and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ) could not confirm nor deny working on the matter, Ministry of Health and Child Care, family health director Dr Bernard Madzima confirmed they were ceased with the matter.

The Family Health Department is responsible for maternal health among other issues.

Dr Madzima said the Ministry received a post-mortem report and has since handed it over to a team of experts, which will give a position regarding the death of Dr Sibanda.

A Karoi woman in 2017 took a medical doctor to the High Court claiming damages amounting to $400 000 after her husband husband died during an ill-performed operation.

Ms Jane Mazhambe filed the lawsuit in the High Court through her lawyers claiming $86 095 in school fees for her three minor children, $17 020 for the completion of the construction of the family’s house, $261 338 for the minors’ food, health care and ancillary expenses and $52 000 for utility bills and her health care as well.

Last year a Mutare farmer Mr James Makununura, who lost his wife due to medical negligence successfully sued Dr Miriam Kanyenze for $20 000.

Mrs Makunura sought medical attention for fibroids from the specialist in 2010.

After the surgery, Dr Kanyenze negligently discharged Mildred Makunura from hospital without attending to her hypertension.