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Doctor sued for R2m for failing to give proper care to woman whose ring finger was bitten by robber

23 June 2022 - 08:00
A woman whose finger was amputated after receiving inadequate treatment at a private health care facility should be awarded damages, the high court in Pretoria has ruled. File photo.
A woman whose finger was amputated after receiving inadequate treatment at a private health care facility should be awarded damages, the high court in Pretoria has ruled. File photo.
Image: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA/File photo

The high court in Pretoria has ruled in favour of a woman whose wedding ring finger was amputated after it was bitten during an armed robbery in 2016.

The woman had sued Dr Francois du Toit Inc, an emergency medicine healthcare organisation, for R2m, alleging it had not adequately treated a bite wound she sustained during a robbery at her house.  

The woman, named as AW Malan in the judgment passed last week, had been rushed to Kloof Hospital after the attack outside her home in Pretoria on January 17 2016.

She and her husband were assaulted and she was bitten by the assailant on her ring finger.

After she was treated for various injuries, she was issued a prescription.

A few days later the pain in the left ring finger became unbearable and her hand became swollen.

She urgently contacted her general practitioner, who referred her immediately to an orthopaedic surgeon who then treated her.

On March  15 2017, her ring finger was amputated.

The woman sued Dr Francois du Toit Inc and said it had wrongfully and negligently breached its legal duty in a number of respects.

She said the healthcare organisation failed to explore the human bite to her finger and should have foreseen it created an orthopaedic emergency which required immediate hospitalisation  and prescription of therapy antibiotics to prevent infection.

She urgently contacted her general practitioner, who referred her immediately to an orthopaedic surgeon who then treated her.

On March  15 2017, her ring finger was amputated.

The woman sued Dr Francois du Toit Inc and said it had wrongfully and negligently breached its legal duty in a number of respects.

She said the healthcare organisation failed to explore the human bite to her finger and should have foreseen it created an orthopaedic emergency which required immediate hospitalisation  and prescription of therapy antibiotics to prevent infection.

Her allegation is that doctors did not treat the injury as a bite wound.

The claim of R2m was for hospital expenses, future loss of earning capacity and general damages.

At the start of the trial, the parties agreed the court should deal with the merits of the claim, and not the amount of damages.

The woman said she had informed the treating nurses and doctors that she was bitten more than once.

Judge Harshila Kooverjie said Malan's testimony on the disclosure of the bite was corroborated by her husband.

The doctor who treated her persisted in her evidence that the woman had not disclosed to her the fact that she was bitten on her finger.

If she had done so, her treatment protocol would have been very different, the doctor said.

In her conclusion, the judge said she had found that it was highly probable that the disclosure of the bite was made, hence the treatment was not appropriate.

“Consequently, the defendant has wrongfully and negligently breached its legal duty,” Kooverjie said.

She said the expert report by the healthcare organisation said a human bite required concerted treatment. This included prophylactic antibiotics, hospitalisation, intravenous antibiotics and debridement.

“Therefore, had the appropriate treatment been administered, the circumstances Mrs Malan found herself in could have been avoided.

“In Mrs Malan’s case, I find that the treatment was inappropriate,” Kooverjie said, as she ordered the healthcare organisation to pay Malan's proven damages.

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