A coroner inquest has been opened to make an inquisition into the circumstances surrounding the death of a popular chef, Mrs Peju Ugboma, says the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
Dr Olayinka Atilola, the Chairman, Committee on Medical Jurisprudence, NMA in Lagos State, made this known in a statement on Tuesday in Lagos.
Ugboma’s family had alleged that their daughter died due to negligence of health officials at the Premier Specialist Medical Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, where she had surgery for fibroid.
The deceased’s family had also alleged that an independent autopsy done by pathologists at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Lagos, revealed that Peju suffered internal bleeding.
Supreme recalls that the issue, however, led to an outcry against the hospital on various social media platforms, with many people also alleging medical negligence.
Supreme further recalls that this prompted the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, to order an investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of the late chef.
Abayomi had directed the state Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA) to investigate the hospital and “establish the facts” on what led to Ugboma’s death.
Also, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), said it was investigating “possible violation of patient and consumer rights” in the death of Ugboma.
FCCPC said that it was collaborating with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) in the investigation to determine the extent of possible violation in the case.
Atilola, however, said that NMA had expressed reservations on the public inquiry into the unfortunate incident of the death of Ugboma by the FCCPC.
“You may also recall that the association had maintained that there are already well-established and functional systems of investigating unfavourable outcomes of clinical services including death, within the judicial system and the medical regulatory framework.
“And, that the law establishing the FCCPC more usefully envisage that FCCPC will explore, encourage, or collaborate with such existing judicial and medical regulatory framework in her commendable effort at protecting the rights of the healthcare consumer in the event of unfavourable outcomes or death rather than a needless venture into parallel investigation.
“The NMA had also reiterated severally that we are not averse to lawful inquiry into the unfortunate incident, but that such will be more useful and comply with medical codes of ethics when conducted within the traditional judicial and medical frameworks for such purpose,” he said.
Atilola said that the coroner’s inquest as enshrined in the Lagos Coroner Act of 2007 was a traditional judicial way by which death of an individual was investigated.
“The Act provides that a postmortem medical examination and judicial inquiry be carried out by the Coroner, a judicial officer, when death is suspected to have, among other scenarios, occurred due to negligent acts in the course of or following medical intervention.
“A Coroner Inquest, though inquisitorial, is empowered to call witnesses, both expert and lay, and can make recommendations for further inquiry, prosecution, or even referral to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal,” he said.
Atilola said that the coroner inquest met for the preliminary briefing on June 21 at Court 13, Samuel Ilori Court House, Ogba, Lagos.
He said that legal representatives of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, the Lagos Police Command, Premier Specialist Medical Centre and Evercare Hospital were all represented.
“Witnesses, that is doctors from the two hospitals who were directly involved in the management of the deceased were also present,” he said.
Atilola added that the NMA in Lagos, through its Medical Jurisprudence Committee, was also present as observer.
“This information is imperative for members of the public to know that the NMA, Lagos and her members, including all the doctors that did not attend the televised FCCPC panel are not averse to scrutiny, in the interest of justice and advancement of good practice of medicine.
“But, that all enquiries must be done within the already established judicial and medical framework for the same.
“The Medical and Dental Practitioners Tribunal of MDCN is a court of law and its proceedings follow a laid down process,” he said.
Atilola restated the association’s commitment to safe and efficient service and protection of the rights of all users of clinical services in the state.