‘Human error’ to blame for hospital deaths

A Ministry of Health enquiry has blamed the recent deaths of two patients at Lagos General Hospital on the anaesthetist and the hospital’s clinical director. Albertina Estevão, 44, and Rui Gonçalves, 35, both died after visiting the hospital for routine operations.

The decision, based on a full investigation from the Inspector General of Health, rejects allegations about the substances used in the anaesthetic. Families of the victims now say they will prosecute anaesthetist, Maria de Jesus Lima, and clinical director, Pimenta de Castro. But a sharp difference of opinion has now arisen about the report’s conclusions. In contrast to the Ministry of Health, the Ordem dos Médicos (Order of Doctors) maintains its confidence in the two doctors suspended in the wake of the tragedies. The Order bases its decision on a technical report from a specialist college that raised suspicions about the generic substance used in the two surgeries.

According to Pedro Nunes, president of the southern section of the Ordem dos Médicos, the report from the College of Anaesthesia attributes the deaths to “a conjunction of various circumstances that contributed to the accident”. Nunes questions the credibility of the Inspector General of Health’s conclusions and blames the Ministry for “failing to show willingness to investigate the drug” used in the anaesthetics, in this case a generic of Propofol.

However, the Ministry of Health still claims it has based its decision on vast documentation (clinical reports, autopsy reports and administrative registers) that absolves the drug itself of any role in the patients’ deaths.