Medical doctor jailed in Lagos for negligence

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A Lagos State High Court has sentenced the Medical Director of Excel Medical Centre Dolphin Estate, Dr. Ejike Ferdinand Orji to one year imprisonment for negligence and endangering the life of a 16 year-old patient. Justice Adedayo Akintoye found the doctor guilty on 4 of the six counts for which he was charged.

In the charge filed by the State Government, Dr Orji was initially arraigned together with his wife, Dr Ifeyinwa Grace Orji. The defendants were alleged to have, in July 2018, at their medical centre, acted in a negligent and reckless manner when they fixed a Plaster of Paris cast too tightly on the left leg of a minor, which caused him grievous harm. The minor, a young Nigerian aspiring to play basketball in the United States of America, USA, had his career cut short by the incident which occurred when he came to Nigeria for a holiday.

In delivering the verdict, the judge discharged and acquitted Dr Mrs. Orji following the State Director of Public Prosecution’s application which discontinued the case against her. The judge said: “It is my opinion that the defendant committed a breach of duty as a medical practitioner when he willfully refused to remove the fiberglass cast on the patient’s left leg despite complaints of severe pain that resulted in a compartment syndrome.”

The court held that the doctor applied a Plaster of Paris, POP, cast on the patient’s leg without carrying out an x-ray to identify the level of injury and also used the services of a none medical staff. Justice Akintoye observed that Orji did not obtain the consent of the patient’s mother who was present in the hospital at the time the POP was applied.

The eminent judge therefore held that the prosecution had been able to establish essential ingredients of the offences of breach of duty and proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. “I find that the prosecution has established essential ingredient in courts 2, 3, 4, and 6,” she said.

The defendant’s lawyer, Ajibola Ariba, in his plea of allocutus, urged the court to temper justice with mercy, noting that the defendant was a first offender who had never been convicted for any crime before and pleaded with the court to consider the option of a fine as the defendant who was born in 1958, was advanced in age.

After his plea, Justice Akintoye said: “I have listened to the plea for leniency on behalf of the defendant. Therefore, the defendant, Dr Ejike Ferdinand, is hereby convicted and sentenced to one-year imprisonment each, on count two, three, four, and six.”

This unfortunate incident will perhaps teach Nigerian doctors that even their patients have legal rights and should be treated with utmost courtesy. We continue to learn as events unfold by the day.

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