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A citizen has approached the capital police seeking legal action against a surgeon and a private hospital after his wife died due to alleged ‘medical negligence’ after undergoing a gastrectomy to reduce obesity.

Hafiz Ahmed in his complaint stated that he took his 32-year-old wife to the surgeon at a private hospital in F-8 on October 8, 2015, to have the operation.

The surgeon advised for a sleeve gastrectomy, a weight-loss procedure in which the size of the stomach is reduced by removing a portion of it. The surgeon told him that he was a specialist in the field and had so far conducted 50 such operations.

“The surgeon also gave me phone numbers of his patients and asked me to speak to them about his specialisation. After talking to some of them, I agreed to admit my wife in hospital for the surgery.”

He said the surgeon asked him to get the patient admitted to a private hospital in Blue Area on October 10, 2015. Mr Ahmed said he deposited Rs284,470 at the hospital besides paying thousands of rupees for medicines and laboratory tests.

The patient underwent the surgery at the hospital the same day and after three days was discharged despite the fact that she had a high fever, severe pain and was unable to walk.

After reaching home, the condition of the patient deteriorated. When Mr Ahmed contacted the surgeon, he assured him that the patient would be stabilised soon. But shortly afterwards, she started coughing severely.

“My wife also got treatment for cough for a week but her condition remained unchanged,” Mr Ahmed stated. Later, a laboratory test was conducted which showed that her surgery wounds had not healed and secretion was discharging from them and entering the lungs.

When the condition of the patient did not improve, the surgeon advised Mr Ahmed to take her to a government hospital and also gave him the reference of a doctor.

“When I took her to the government hospital and met the doctor, he refused to see her.” After this, the surgeon could not be contacted again so he took the patient to another private hospital at F-8.

The doctors at the F-8 hospital blamed the operation for her falling health and said: “We are not hopeful of her health.”

A certificate issued by the hospital in F-8 stated that the patient had undergone sleeve gastrectomy for a morbid obesity from another private hospital.

“After the operation, she developed shortness of breathing and pain epigastria which kept on worsening along with high fever when she was brought to this hospital.” The report added, “She was diagnosed to have gastric fundal perforation burst abdomen, leaking cardia and severe chest infection.”

The patient was kept in the hospital for a daily wound care and seen by plastic and general surgeons but her condition kept on deteriorating. Due to a respiratory failure, she was later put on a ventilator.

“Post-up condition of the patient is still critical, on ventilator, needs to be hospitalised for a long period for critical care.”

The patient died in the hospital on November 28, her husband said, adding an amount of Rs1.6 million was paid to the hospital, including the ICU fee.

In the death certificate issued by the private hospital, the underlying cause of death was described as “gastric perforation and severe sepsis and burst abdominal, acute lungs injury and homodynamic failure.”

The immediate and intervening causes were stated to be “cardiopulmonary arrest, acute renal failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome and type-1 respiratory failure.”

The husband said after his wife’s death he realised that the surgeon had not gotten his signature on the consent paper before the surgery. “Had he given me the consent paper, I would have known the possible post-surgery risk factors.”

He said, “I belong to a middle class and have a small property business. I spent a huge amount of money on the treatment of my wife but she did not survive due to the medical negligence.” He also said the death of his wife shocked him and it was now difficult for him to look after his three children.

Mr Ahmed said he approached the senior superintendent of police (operation) Islamabad to take legal action against the surgeon. “The Kohsar police called me a few days ago and recorded my statement. I handed them all the medical record of my wife, including the report of the private hospital where she died in which it was stated that she developed complications after the operation.”

When contacted by Dawn, Sub-Inspector Mohammad Ishaq of the Kohsar police said he called the surgeon to get his statement but he did not appear before the police.

” He said a legal opinion had been sought from the police prosecution department over the complaint of Mr Ahmed.

Dawn also contacted the surgeon many times but every time he said he was busy and would call back.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2016