Tanzanian woman wins landmark case over childbirth operation

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By Kizito Makoye

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters Foundation) – A woman left unable to have children after a defective caesarian section operation in Tanzania has won a landmark case against a local hospital whose surgeon left a piece of cloth inside her.

Mwamini Adam and her husband filed a lawsuit at the high court in western Tabora region against Urambo District Council’s hospital four years ago, demanding 500 million Tanzanian Shillings ($265,000) for physical and emotional distress.

Adam, 37, accused Jacob Kamanda, a gynecologist and obstetrician at the district hospital, of professional negligence and misconduct after he left a piece of cloth in her stomach after performing a caesarian section operation.

She told the court her condition deteriorated within days of the operation January 6, 2011, in which her baby survived.

“I was very ill and constantly discharging pus. It was a terrible blow to my family since I could longer engage in my daily activities,” she said.

She said the defective operation meant she can no longer give birth because performing a life-saving corrective operation decided to remove her uterus.

Pregnancy and childbirth are among the biggest dangers faced by women in Tanzania due to a shortage of qualified doctors and lack of quality healthcare and maternity services.

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Tanzania is one of a list of African nations that have the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality. For every 100,000 live births, 454 women die of childbirth-related complications, according to UNICEF data.

Delivering the verdict this week, High Court Judge Amir Mruma said the court was convinced Adam suffered significantly due to negligence by one of the hospital’s doctors and ordered hospital owner, Urambo District Council, to pay compensation.

Lawyers for Adam said this was the first time in Tanzania that a court had ruled in favor of a woman whose life was put in danger by defective surgery related to childbirth.

The judge ruled the council pay 25 million Tanzanian Shillings accumulated interest to Adam and her husband and also cover the costs of the law suit.