Medical Negligence in Nigeria: the role of the Law in addressing incidents of Negligence in the medical profession| Kingsley Ugochukwu Ani


Have you ever been operated upon for a medical condition or anomaly like appendicitis? Have you had to visit the hospital to be treated, only to wake up later and discover that the condition is worse?

I remember a story my mother told me, about the one time she had been taken to the hospital and the nurse assigned to give her intramuscular injection had accidentally injected her with some expired serum that almost killed her and sent her own mother_ my grandmother_ in cahoots. It was a miracle that my mother did not due but she came this close to dying.

Why the above scenario?

There are lots of horror stories about people being treated wrongly by the health care practitioners and getting away with it. People have died from wrongly sutured operation sites; they have developed complications from wrongly done surgeries; they have died from taking wrong medications which have long lost their life usage because the nurse on duty was too preoccupied chatting with her boyfriend on phone to notice that the drugs were already expired before writing up their prescription.

Health care practitioners deal with people’s lives on a daily basis and they should be made accountable for it.

What happens when your doctor wrongly tempers with your kidney during an appendicectomy operation? (I have heard of this scenario where the doctor negligently tampered with the patient’s kidney, resulting later in the death of the patient) There have been scenarios of people almost losing or in some cases, indeed losing their lives due to the Negligence of their health care practitioners. There has been a case where a reverend father took an ailing parishioner to the hospital, only for the front desk officer to refuse to book her to see a doctor until she had finished eating her roasted groundnuts with her bottle of Coke. And the woman was seriously ill!

Do I have to stress this enough?

Some health care practitioners can be extremely negligible in the dispensation of their duties.

When that happens, what do you do?

1. Leave the matter for God, after all, he knows the best.
Some people have this ‘church’ mindset where they leave everything for God. Slap them, they say: Leave it for God. Stab them, you get the same reply. Kill their child in surgery negligently, and the result is the same.

In the above case, well, they can leave it for God.

2. Seek legal remedy for the Medical Negligence

When health care practitioners have it at the back of their minds that they can be held massively responsible for their medical actions by ex patients and their families, then they will learn to sit up.

A person who has suffered medically due to the medical negligence of a medical Practitioner can seek legal redress against that Practitioner for damages. It is called Medical Negligence.

A lawyer can be held accountable for professional negligence and can even be suspended from practise; so also can a medical Practitioner be held liable in negligence.

A civil action can be instituted for damages with the applicant suing for general and special damages(the latter where he can prove special damages really; it must be specifically pleaded and proved) against the Practitioner involved.

NB: Many people may argue that they do not have the money for court action. That’s no problem; you can contract with a legal Practitioner for his fee to be a Contingent Fee; his being paid his legal fees will be contingent upon his recovering damages for the negligence.

People keep on suffering aimlessly. This can be stopped, but then people really do have no idea that they have legal redress they can resort to in such cases.

Tread wisely.

Thank you.

Written by:

Ani Ugochukwu Kingsley Esq.
Legal Practitioner


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