Doctors cleared of toddler’s death from meningitis

Seven doctors cleared of involuntary homicide over death of two-year-old girl in hospital 12 years ago

Seven medical professionals were cleared of involuntary homicide over the death of a two-year-old girl in hospital 12 years ago.

The court ordered a ban on the publication of the names, after decreeing that their conduct was in line with well-established medical practices, and that they had done all that was reasonably expected of a prudent doctor .

The child had been admitted to hospital suffering from symptoms of gastroenteritis after running a fever and vomiting when first admitted to St James Hospital.

First diagnosed with gastric flu, she was then referred to Mater Dei Hospital to be rehydrated with a drop. The child’s parents later developed similar symptoms. 

Three days after her admission to hospital, a specialist trainee noted symptoms of lethargy, high fever, “wakes up and cries for a few seconds and goes back to sleep..... Looks comfortable but very lethargic.... no rashes, no meningal signs. "

But soon after, the child suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest. Attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful, and the child died.

The autopsy found the death had occurred due to “natural causes, namely meningitis, proven bacteriologically to be streptococcal in origin.”

But the prosecution charged all seven medical professionals with having been careless in the exercise of their profession, by failing to carry out further tests over and above the blood tests on the evidently deteriorating condition of the girl.

Faced with all those symptoms, they had also failed to suspect that the cause was meningitis.

The defence insisted that the child’s clinical chart and medical history consistently pointed at gastroenteritis and that no specific symptom could have reasonably triggered a suspicion of meningitis.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello concluded that all seven doctors had adopted an adequate and reasonable approach, based on clinical tests and the patient’s medical history. The court said they were “not duty-bound to adopt ultra-precautionary or defensive measures” that were then unncessary in the circumstances.

Lawyers Michael, Lucio Sciriha and Joe Giglio variously assisted the accused.