Toxic drink given to woman lands KZN Health in high court

Toxic drink given to woman lands KZN Health in high court

A case in which an elderly Pietermaritzburg woman is suing KZN’s MEC for Health after she was allegedly given Formalin instead of water to drink after an operation, came before the high court on Monday.

The case in which Isabella Brink Beyers Smith is suing the health authorities for R425 000 was adjourned to May 16 next year for trial.

The Health Department is opposing the claim.

Smith, who according to court papers is over 70-years-old and resides at Sunnyside Park old age home, was admitted to Grey’s Hospital on May 5, 2010, for a total knee replacement operation. She underwent surgery on May 5, 2010, and after the operation was wheeled into a recovery room adjoining the theatre.

There she allegedly felt thirsty and asked for a drink of water.

The court papers allege that the anaesthetist who had performed the anaesthetic on Smith handed her a container of what appeared to be water. She “took a big gulp” to quench her thirst and “immediately felt excruciating pain in her nose, mouth, chest and stomach”.

According to papers drawn up by her lawyer Siva Chetty, Smith was given Formalin to drink instead of water. She was subsequently allegedly treated for Formalin ingestion, toxicity and complications and other consequences of what happened.

It is alleged that the staff who had a duty to treat Smith with “professionalism and skill” failed in their duties by causing her to drink Formalin. The papers allege that they were negligent in several respects including failure to label the container which had the Formalin in it.

Hospital staff also allegedly failed to counsel Smith about the “cause of her pain” and the complications associated with ingesting Formalin.

They also failed to arrange trauma counselling for her.

As a result of drinking the Formalin, Smith allegedly had to endure excruciating pain and suffering, had to remain in hospital for six weeks more than she would otherwise have had to, and suffered other symptoms including severe vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. She still cannot enjoy a normal diet, has suffered “significant weight loss” and had to undergo a gastroscopy.

According to the court papers, Smith also became depressed after her experience and “does not find life enjoyable any more”. She will require further medical treatment in future, including psychological care.

In replying papers the Health Department denied it was liable to compensate Smith.

The Witness

Source: Media24

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