Majority of a six-man jury panel says the John F. Kennedy Medical Center or JFKMC is not liable for the death of Nakita D. Forh, daughter of Montserrado County Rep. Dr. Edward Forh.
Rep. Forh sued the government referral hospital on a US$25m complaint for wrongful death, blaming the JFKMC and its doctors and nurses for acts of negligence that he argued, caused his daughter’s death in September 2014 during the Ebola crisis.
The jury panel was due to reach verdicts for a total of 11 defendants, which include JFK and other individuals like doctors, nurses and officials at the hospital listed in the complaint.
But they only return verdict for JFK after hours of deliberation that began in the afternoon of Wednesday, 19 October at the Civil Law Court “A” following final argument by both parties.
Presiding Judge Yusif D. Kaba had to send the jury panel back to the deliberation room to further deliberate on verdicts for the remaining 10 accused.
“The court observes that the verdict as returned by the panel made reference to one out of eleven defendants. The court therefore is of the opinion that the panel will return to the room of deliberation and return a verdict for the remaining defendants …,” Judge Kaba said.
Mr. Forh’s lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson had earlier told the jury panel that they were the first jurors in the history of Liberia to hear a case of medical malpractice which he said was committed when one does something that was outside of the procedures that govern the medical profession.
Cllr. Johnson had displayed pictures of the late Nakita while lying on the floor at JFK and her picture as a Beauty Queen of Stella Maris Polytechnic, wearing crown after winning the school’s beauty pageant prior to her death in September 2014.
He blamed JFK and its doctors and nurses for alleged absolute disregard to the value of human life, saying they decided not to perform their duty to save the life of Nakita.
“You have a responsibility to take a decision; and that decision will decide whether or not, JFK will continue to remain negligent for more lives to continue to go away,” he urged the jury.
Cllr. Johnson claimed that two or more of the witnesses testifying for JFK proved that they value the hospital’s instrument than human life, on grounds that they refused to allow Nakita use the nebulizer over fears that she could contaminate it.
“They said she was Ebola suspect and so they could not use the machine on her so that the machine could not be infected, just in case she had Ebola. That is a clear testimony that these people don’t value human life. They value a machine that could be contaminated and later disinfected,” he argued.
The lawyer suggested that “somebody may have had something personal against Rep. Forh and then put it on that child, maybe because he is a politician”. “You go to the hospital in the night, they are busy on facebook, chatting. Why should you wear the PPEs when you cannot touch patients that you are not satisfied with,” he wondered.
He argued that bringing a verdict to hold JFK liable would send a message to Liberia and the world; even if the jury panel chose to reduce the money demanded (US$25m), and warned that if the jury panel allowed JFK and its doctors and nurses to go free, “they will say but they can’t do anything man, we will kill them here.”
He suggested that the Liberian Government needed to open criminal investigation surrounding the situation. Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation Cllr. Augustine C. Fayiah squarely blamed Rep. Froh for allegedly killing his daughter, saying his conduct led to Nakita’s death. Cllr. Fayiah wondered why would a father who says he reads Biology in the 21st century, take his daughter home to manage her under such health condition, pondering as to “what sort of arrogance is that”.
Cllr. Fayiah says government is not leaving the case, saying “since he came as a complainant, we are going to investigate the criminal side”. He said Nakita died as a result of lack of sound judgment by her father.
The Assistant Minister condemned the investigative report authored by the Liberia Medical and Dental Council, claiming that it was compiled by a criminal empire of two men running a cartel.
He branded them as imposters, saying the report was useless and jurors should not rely upon it to make decisions.
“Criminally they cannot escape. We are going to deal with these people little by little. They had no authority to write that report,” Cllr. Fayiah warned.He said the doctor who wrote the report has embarrassed Rep. Froh, over claimed that he wrote the report with the intent of making money, noting that after JFK lost three doctors, prosecuting them was not a way of paying doctors who decided to reopen the hospital to make sacrifice when Ebola was still here.
Cllr. Johnny Momo insisted that Mr. Forh did not show any medical report to validate that his daughter was a known asthmatic and that he had no written referral notice to go to JFK.
He said when Forh’s daughter was examined by an intern, she exhibited signs and symptoms and she came from New Kru Town that was an Ebola area.
“So under those conditions Mr. Forh was advised to take his daughter to ETU and if tested positive, she would have been treated,” he argued.
“I’m sure, if the mother of Nakita were present, having carried Nakita for nine months, she would have said if this is the only opportunity to safe my daughter, let’s do it. I’m sure if Nakita could speak, she would have done same,” he argued.
Meanwhile, the accused exornerated by the jury include chief administrator McDonald-Scott, MunahTarpeh, Professor Joseph Woart, Tarnue G. Sneh, Mary G. Howard Nyanqueh, Doctor Kotu Borbor – a JFK intern, and Mrs. Korsu Brown, among others.
-Editing by Jonathan Browne