Seven doctors face charges over two-year-old girl's death
Seven doctors were this morning charged with the involuntary homicide of a two- year-old-girl, Aimee Abela, through negligence and misdiagnosis, at Mater Dei Hospital two years ago. All pleaded not guilty to the single charge.
Lawyers Michael Sciriha and Joe Giglio asked the court to ban the publication of their names. Dr Giglio said that the proceedings should be heard behind closed doors. There was a whole ward in the dock he exclaimed.
Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appearing for the victims' family, objected to the request.
Dr Giglio said that once taken to court, people were condemned by public perception.
Dr Azzopardi interjected, saying that the fact that there was a ban would make the matter worse because the whole hospital would be blamed.
Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona agreed to a ban on the names.
VITAL TEST NOT MADE
Court-appointed expert Forensic Pathologist Mario Scerri testified that during a magisterial inquiry he examined the dead body and presented a report after also speaking to witnesses.
He said that the girl died from meningitis. This was a case of a child who, in February two years ago, had been vomiting and was given voltaren and taken to St James. She was examined, given medication, and taken home.
On the next day she still had a temperature and a doctor, one of the accused, recommended that she take motilium.
Later she was taken to Mater Dei Hospital.
The girl was alert when she was taken to Mater Dei. There was evidence she had a bacterial infection but for some reason her urine sample was not taken to the lab for analysis, Dr Scerri said.Nor was she given antibiotics at that time.
Her mother called the same doctor, who also worked at Mater Dei, and he said that he was at children's outpatients and could not see her.
The mother called again after a few hours and insisted that he see her.
She spoke to her own doctor, and he told her that there was a bacterial infection. When she relayed the information to the doctor at Mater Dei, he told her that it was for him to decide and not someone else.
The girl later died and an autopsy was ordered.
Dr Scerri said it was established that bacterial meningitis caused the death.
Dr Scerri said that when called to testify before him during the magisterial inquiry several of the accused exercised their right to silence.
He regretted that none of the doctors had performed a septic screen test on the young patient.
In one of the entries in the medical records, one of the doctors said that the child looked miserable. Later he said 'very miserable' and 'extremely miserable'.
And yet nobody picked up on the fact that there was a bacterial infection.
Replying to questions, Dr Scerri said that in this type of bacterial infection one could have full blown presentation of symptoms or no symptom,s but one did not go with presentation only.
Taking the witness stand, microbiologist Chris Barbara, chairman of the pathology department said blood tests were carried out on the child. It resulted that her white blood cells were elevated but that could mean that there was a inflammation or an infection or both. These results are done in real time. The results were uploaded online but other tests were not requested.