Family calls for licensed doctors to be held accountable for their actions

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A family is demanding that the government move swiftly to properly enforce the Antigua and Barbuda ‘Medical Practitioners Act of 2009’, particularly the section which speaks to the formation of a Disciplinary Committee to investigate and punish any wrongdoings on the part of medical practitioners in Antigua and Barbuda.
They are also calling for licensed medical practitioners in Antigua and Barbuda to be held accountable for their actions if a procedure goes wrong. The demands are contained in a petition launched by the family of Esme Stevens, who died on September 11 following what family members say was a routine medical procedure which later went wrong.
One of Steven’s sons Chaka Uzondu, who spoke from Ghana last week, explained, “Our mom went in for a colonoscopy … she went in on the 8th, after having the procedure done she had pain. She complained about the \pain, we spoke to the doctor and he insisted the pain was due to gas and bloating and therefore she should take the painkillers and some other drug which he had recommended, which we did. The second day, which was the 9th she had pain which continued and we started to have concerns because knowing her, she is a person who bears pain quite well, and if she was complaining of pain like this then something seemed a bit off. Again, the doctor insisted it was just an instance of bloating and she should continue taking the pain killers, let it run its course – which was a five-day prescription and she should be fine thereafter.”
A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.
The son said the pain following the colonoscopy continued into the third day and when another brother, Tariq Uzondu called the doctor and explained that the pain had become unbearable and his mother could not walk, the doctor told the him to take Stevens to the hospital’s fourth floor. It allegedly took the doctor two hours to see his mother and another eight hours before she was taken into the theatre for an emergency surgery and shortly afterwards “she was declared dead” Chaka said.
It should be noted that the initial colonoscopy procedure was done at a private doctor, but the woman’s children say that regardless of where the procedure was done, a complaint about the actions or inaction of a doctor working privately or at a public hospital would have to be made to a Disciplinary Committee under the Medical Practitioners Act and such a committee is, according to them, not in place.
OBSERVER media was unable to verify this up to last night as several doctors said they were not sure if it was in fact set up. Two of them who spoke but did not want to be named, said steps were being made to set up the committee last year but they had no idea if it happened.
Meanwhile, Tariq told OBSERVER media last night that very few people have the financial means to take legal action and it is through this committee they should be able to file complaints and get some form of justice.
Under the Act, if the Disciplinary Committee, or the majority of the Disciplinary Committee, decides that a complaint is well-founded it may make the recommendations it considers just, including a recommendation to:
(a) remove from the Medical Register the name of the medical practitioner;
(b) suspend the medical practitioner’s licence to practise medicine;
(c) revoke the medical practitioner’s licence to practise medicine;
(d) place conditions on the medical practitioner’s licence to practise medicine;
(e) impose a reasonable fine on the medical practitioner; or
(f) reprimand the medical practitioner.
According to the family, the doctor’s failure to act as an ‘experienced’ doctor significantly altered the outcome of the routine procedure and it can only be 
considered gross medical negligence or malpractice.
Tarik is in Antigua leading the charge on behalf of his family, and he is appealing to members of the public and interest groups to support the cause as they advocate for the formation of the committee and the restoration of ‘faith in the medical fraternity in the country.’
“This is nothing new that has been happening in Antigua and Barbuda, it is a very serious problem; it can no longer continue. We are demanding that the government see it fit to implement the Medical Practitioners Act to the fullest – because unless that is done, we will not see the type of change that we need to see,” he said. 
Since the law was passed in 2009, a medical council was instituted, however the formation of the Disciplinary Committee, which is crucial to the enforcement of the act, was never done, he reiterated.
He also added that from his recollection, no doctor in the country has ever been disciplined for his or her actions, and he believes this is because a lot of people are not aware that complaints can be filed if only the committee had been established..
“This cannot continue, it is a shame for anyone of us, to be allowing this to continue from time to time. We are calling on all citizens and every person in government to do what is right,” the son said.
As of 9:30 p.m. yesterday, 1,698 people had already signed the online petition document.

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