Ward in the dock, doctors charged with involuntary death of two-year-old

Court orders ban on publication of names of seven doctors charged with causing involuntary death of two-year-old Aimee Abela at Mater Dei Hospital in 2011.

Mater Dei Hospital
Mater Dei Hospital

Seven doctors were this afternoon charged with the responsibility of causing the involuntary death of two-year old Aimee Abela at Mater Dei Hospital two years ago, after a chain of events and breakdown in communication failed to detect meningitis and administer the immediate medication.

The doctors, whose names cannot be published by order of Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona, who upheld a request by defence lawyers Michael Sciriha and Joseph Giglio, who argued on the fact that a whole ward was standing in the dock.

Their names were already published in The Times's print edition of 27 February, 2013.

Appearing in parte civile for Aimee Abela's parents, lawyer Arthur Azzopardi said the court should not accede to the defendants' request because the doctors had continued to practice their profession in the same wards, and same hospital, "as if nothing had happened."

Azzopardi also argued that banning the publication of the doctors names would practically put the whole hospital in the dock, and have public perception blame the whole system rather than the personal responsibility of the accused.

Magistrate Micallef Trigona over-ruled the submission, and decreed the ban on the publication of all the doctor's names facing the single charge of involuntary homicide.

Expert's report

A forensic pathologist appointed by the inquiring magistrate into the death of the young girl, confirmed under oath that a detailed autopsy revealed that the victim died of meningitis.

Dr. Mario Scerri explained that from medical investigations carried out subsequently to Aimee's death, it was established that the parents had rushed the girl to St James Hospital after a severe vomiting bout, and given the drug Voltaren. After examination, she was sent home.

The following day, young Aimee ran a high temperature, and one of the doctors charged had recommended that she takes Motilium. The girl was subsequently admitted to Mater Dei Hospital, given that her condition was worsening.

According to the court expert, the girl was suffering from an acute bacterial infection, and her urine sample was not forwarded for tests at the hospital's laboratory. The test could have immediately established the infection, and appropriate medication administered.

The mother meanwhile, had attempted to call the doctor she had spoken to the day before, who also worked at Mater Dei Hospital, but replied that he was busy in the children's outpatients department, despite her insistence that he goes to see her.

The same mother then turned to her personal GP, who had in fact immediately established that Aimee was suffering from a bacterial infection.

But when the mother and the private GP referred the condition to the duty personnel at Mater Dei, this was discarded, and told that it was not for the GP to decide on.

As a consequence of the delay, Aimee died a few hours later, and an autopsy was ordered by the inquiring Magistrate, and Dr Scerri conducted the autopsy which revealed the meningitis bacteria.

But Scerri revealed also that when he summoned the doctors before him while conducting the inquiry, they all exercised their right to remain silent, and replied to none of his questions.

The pathologist expressed his disappointment at the fact that none of the accused had in fact conducted a septic screen test, which could have detected the virus.

He added that the disappointment is further strengthened when one notes that in the young girl's medical record in hospital, one of the doctors had written that she was "miserable", then "very miserable" and after that "extremely miserable".

The case continues.

It is a pity that some doctors who act in a nonchalant way in government polyclinics and hospitals give a bad name to all the other dedicated medical staff who form the absolute majority. I am not trying to be judge and jury in this case, but perhaps a little more attention by at least one of the doctors involved would have saved this family from the tragedy of losing such a darling daughter. Keeping the names anonymous may perhaps be prudent at this stage, but as the case narrows down to the guilty party, if there is one at all, then the public has a right to know all the facts.
WARNING TO ALL WHO COMMENTED: Can you imagine having a child in a ward overseen by these doctors? What would you do? Pull your child out because of an alleged accidental death? Leave your child without medical care? I believe the Courts have taken the right decision not to alarm the general public. After all these doctors and nurses are surely innocent unless proven guilty. Can we leave the paediatric ward of the hospital without doctors because of an alleged case. Please consider the consequences
Doctors's names have already been published in yesterday's printed edition of The Times. This was yesterday's 26th and not 27th. So one can easily check who these doctors are.
I have always been under the impression that Dr Mario Scerri is a Medical Practitioner who specialized in forensic medicine. But I have never known him being referred to as a Forensic Pathologist. There is a great need for the Courts to regulate the qualifications expected of the experts that are being created day after day in the respective fields of their alleged specializations.
Joseph MELI
so now that these doctors cannot be named the finger of suspicion will be pointed at ALL doctors in Mater Dei. A Doctor's oath is first do no harm -surely one of the far from magnificent 7 should have taken all measures to ensure that no harm was done?
WHY ?????? Would I have been treated the same being a non proffessional and charged with involuntary death of someone??? Why do proffessionals have the right for annonamity while the children of the lesser gods have different treatment?? Is this the typr of Justice that both Parties are preaching?? Who is going to be responsible if this happened again and again??? What would have been the case if this child belonged to some Maltese god?? We should know who these incredible 7 are so we keep our children at a safe distance?? Is the Medical profession above the Law?? Is this the way they think in the EU CLUB?? Justice for one and ALLLLLLL and not for the chosen!