Hospital patient sues Gov’t for loss of sight

26 Jul 2018

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has been slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit by a patient who “lost her sight” after taking Tuberculosis treatment which was prescribed to her by a medical doctor at Princess Marina hospital in Gaborone.

Information before court shows that Segokolelo Zankere’s decision to sue the Ministry came after she went blind after taking Tuberculosis medication. She is demanding compensation as a result of some negligence by a certain Dr Haverkamp who had prescribed Tuberculosis medication to her without first establishing what kind of illness she was suffering from.

When appearing before Justice Godfrey Radijeng of Gaborone High Court, Zankere’s lawyer Meshack Mthimkhulu asked court to award his client money amounting to P1.5 million as compensation for damages. The damages are in form of pain, permanent disfigurement, loss of life and future medical expenses.

The lawyer said the first time the plaintiff (Zankere) ingested the tuberculosis medication she developed sores on her body which immediately turned into wounds. After Zankere discovered some severe pains she immediately reported that to Dr Haverkamp who was based at Princess Marina Hospital.

Mthimkhulu told the court that after a month Zankere developed numbness from her waist all the way to her feet and started losing eyesight.

He argued that it was on December 2015 when she could no longer see and did not do her daily activities unassisted.

“At the beginning of 2016 the plaintiff’s daughter took her to Ramotswa at Bamalete Lutheran Hospital for medical help as she was blind. The Hospital refused to assist and returned her to Princess Marina Hospital. At Princess Marina Hospital the plaintiff (Zankere) met Dr Moenga who after talking to Dr Haverkamp on phone stopped the plaintiff tuberculosis medication,” said Mthimkhulu.

He added that “It was at this point where my client then went to seek assistance from Hospital Superintendent Dr Motumise who immediately instructed that an eye doctor should assist. And at the eye clinic ophthalmologist concluded that her loss of vision was due to ethambutol toxicity (loss of eye sight due to medication),’’ said Mthimkhulu.

When giving evidence in chief and during cross examination, Zankere maintained that her blindness was caused by tuberculosis medication. She said the ophthalmologist diagnosis was that she had an ‘optic neuritis secondary to ethambutol toxicity’ which can lead to blindness.

When asked by her lawyer if she still enjoys life like she used to before loss of eye sight, Zankere broke down uncontrollably.

She said she no longer enjoys living a good and healthy lifestyle as compared to her ‘normal days’ arguing that the Tuberculosis treatment has left her with nothing but a miserable lifestyle.

“When I was active, I operated a transport business (combi) which used to transport students on a weekly basis, church mates from Gaborone to Pertsburg during weekends and also selling clothes. I made a net profit of about P15, 000 per month and with this blindness I’m no longer the person I used to be because all my business no longer exists. I sold my combi with the intention to sustain my life which never changed but went worse because of this blindness,’’ said Zankare.

Mthimkhulu said when doctors advised Zankare to stop taking the anti-TB treatment their expectations was that her eyesight will recover within 2 years and in terms of colour vision she should get it back after sometimes but that never happen.

He said the state has not disputed that the plaintiff suffered blindness because of taking Tuberculosis medication called ’’ethambutol’’ but are more concerned with disputing the P1.5 million demanded by her which led to loss of eyesight.

”The plaintiff has completely lost her eyesight. She is visually impaired on both eyes. She has indisputably suffered loss of amenities of life and the quality of life has drastically impaired,’’ said Mthimkhulu.

But State argues that Zankare is not totally blind but “is partly blind because she can walk unassisted.”

State prosecutor Olayemi Aganga said that the victim has regained her vision back. According to the State prosecutor, the two nurses who testified before court said they have seen the plaintiff walking unassisted when visiting hospital to get her medication and asked the court to dismiss her version.

Aganga did not dispute that fact that the TB medication has contributed to Zankare’s loss of eyesight but dispute that she is completely blind and prayed for the court to dismiss the matter.