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Medical negligence concerns grow following death of child after routine surgery

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Aug 09,2022 - Last updated at Aug 10,2022

Representative image (Photo courtesy of unsplash.com)

AMMAN — The issue of medical negligence has stirred public attention following the death of a child that occurred after a routine appendectomy at a private hospital in Amman.

The nine-year-old boy’s father told The Jordan Times that he took his son to the emergency room after he complained of severe abdominal pain, where attending physicians then demanded immediate surgical intervention.

“After almost five hours in the operation room, doctors told us that he is fine and is going to the ICU for monitoring,” the father said. 

Later in the day, the family was informed that the child had passed away. The autopsy report concluded that the child died due to internal bleeding, according to the father.

The surgery performed on the nine-year-old patient is considered to be “a mild to moderate risk surgery”, a general surgeon told The Jordan Times on condition of anonymity. 

“An appendectomy might have complications like bleedings, leakage or infections that might cause blood poisoning,” he said. “It is fine, and even normal to have bleeding after surgery. It is fine to have complications. What is not fine is that they [the medical staff] did not recognise those complications. It was shocking how they did not recognise that this [patient] was bleeding. After surgery, it is typical to check for bleeding,”  he added.

Zeyad Zu’bi, president of the Jordan Medical Association, told The Jordan Times that it cannot take any action against the doctor. 

“If the child’s guardians take the case to court, the association doesn’t have the authority to take any action,” Zu’bi added.

According to the association, recorded cases of medical error in Jordan are below the global average. 

Last year, approximately 200 medical error cases were reported to the association, Zu’bi added. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as many as four in 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare globally, with “unsafe surgical care procedures causing complications in up to 25 per cent of patients”.

Regarding the association’s procedures surrounding medical errors, Zu’bi stated that “medical errors reported by patients are investigated by the association, which [then] determines whether it is a genuine medical error, or just patients’ claims.” 

Zu’bi stated that some patients prefer to report cases of alleged medical error to the Public Security Directorate (PSD). “If the patient chooses to report the incident to the PSD, police will take over the case,” said Zu’bi.

However, the association retains the ability to form a committee to assess the case and submit any findings to the prosecution, he added.

Zu’bi said that legally, the performing doctor cannot be suspended until the court issues a decision.

Mustafa Manasrah, a board member of the Jordanian Association for Protection Against Medical Error, told The Jordan Times that the absence of deterrent sanctions, a lack of staff competency and poor administrative supervision are among the major causes of medical error in the country. 

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