A man who filed a case of negligence and claimed damages against a Windhoek based doctor for carelessly cutting off his leg following an incident in which he shot himself, has lost the case in the High Court.
The man, Ivan Kasingo accidently shot himself in the right leg just above the knee resulting in the bullet severely fracturing his femur and damaging the popliteal artery to such an extent that it caused the vessel to close, cutting the main supply of blood flow to the lower leg.
He was admitted at Luderitz State Hospital where a Dr. Marais’ clinical examination showed that Kasingo had a blue, pulseless and paralysed right leg and was later evacuated by air to Katutura State Hospital.
An assessment by a Dr. Domingues showed that the leg had made some recoveries while Kasingo’s condition had stabilised.
It was only after he was transferred to Windhoek Central Hospital that a private doctor, Dr. Burger, disagreed on the viability of Kasingo’s leg, having also observed that it had a discoloration of the skin while the calf muscles had become rigid.
“Unfortunately the respondent subsequently became feverish as a result of toxins which dead tissue from his leg had fused into the rest of his body and in order to save his life, the respondent’s right leg was amputated above the knee,” the court heard.
Kasingo’s leg was finally cut off by Dr. Domingues.
However, a Dr. Nel later disagreed that the amputation of Kasingo’s leg was inevitable at the time of his admission to the hospital since from the notes made, there were no contrary indications to revascularisation.
“His opinion was that there was poor handling of the respondent after admission to the hospital. His view was that ‘rapid response by receiving doctors could have saved his leg’.Dr. Nel testified that once a doctor has seen a patient such doctor is ‘responsible for that patient’,” the court said.
However, an anesthetist assessed Kasingo and observations were that his right thigh was warm but the lower leg below the knee was very cold and that he was unable to move his toes and felt no sensation.
Another Dr. Walters who took to the witness box testified that Dr. Domingues could not have negligently caused the loss of Kasingo’s leg given the time that had lapsed from the incident until the arrival of Kasingo at the hospital, and the severity of his injury.
The jury however found that Dr. Domingues had wrongly diagnosed Kasingo but ruled that this does not necessarily translate into negligence, unless it is so palpably wrong as to amount to negligence.
Ruled the Judge, “I am of the view that the respondent failed to prove on a preponderance of probabilities that Dr. Domingues or any other medical officer employed by the appellant was, through an omission, negligent or that assuming there was negligence, that such negligence was the cause of the amputation of the right lower leg of the respondent.”
photo: for illustration