I have always had the deepest respect for Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), the human rights lobby group founded in 1999 by the “likkle but tallawah” Dr Carolyn Gomes. The group has, over the years, faced many challenges – including the perception by Jamaicans (and all too often, human beings in general) that human rights are not for everyone. Be that as it may, JFJ continues diligently along its path, with the young and brilliant Rodje Malcolm at the helm.
JFJ’s beliefs are as follows:
Justice is the bedrock of any civilized and progressive society and all Jamaicans must have equal access to fair and impartial treatment.
Jamaicans are decent, law-abiding citizens; that each person is innocent until proven guilty in a Court of Law, and that each citizen deserves respect, freedom and the right to enjoy a peaceful existence.
We believe in the protection of the Constitutional rights of every human being. Not only an organizational credo, our belief in protecting the basic rights of all citizens of Jamaica is reinforced by the recognition and acceptance of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
JFJ has been sharing the results of two cases they have been working on recently. The following is a court ruling regarding the alleged treatment of a family and their young child at the University Hospital of the West Indies. We await a statement from UHWI on the matter.
Here is JFJ’s press release:
For immediate release
JAMAICANS FOR JUSTICE
2 Fagan Avenue, Kingston 8.
Tel: (876) 755-4524
Fax: (876) 755-4355
Court Establishes That UHWI Cannot Withhold Infant’s Medical Records to Force Parents to Give Un-informed Consent to Risky Medical Procedure
On September 17, 2018, the legal team of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) obtained 5 binding orders from the Supreme Court against the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) for illegally denying parents of an infant child access to her medical records necessary for them to give informed consent to a risky medical procedure; for unlawfully preventing the child’s father from seeing or attending to her because he objected to UHWI’s actions; and legally restraining UHWI staff from threatening the family with legal action because they sought an independent medical opinion.
These orders attempt to quell a dispute between UHWI and Jason and Charlotte Young, the parents of a 14-month-old infant, who is a patient at the UHWI. On behalf of Mr and Mrs Young, JFJ made emergency applications before the court to protect them from further unlawful acts and to safeguard the welfare of their infant child. The complete medical records were requested to enable the parents to make an informed decision regarding their child’s life.
Contradictory medical information from UHWI doctors prompt family to seek external advice
The infant daughter of Mr and Mrs Young was admitted to UHWI on 22 August 2018. On 24 August, Mrs Young was advised by a Doctor Michelle Reece-Mills that the child would certainly die within two days because the hospital could do nothing to save her life. At that point, medical treatment from UHWI ceased, according to the family.
Dr Reece-Mills’ medical judgement proved to be incorrect. The infant lived beyond August 26, despite not being treated by the medical staff. After this, the Youngs were informed that their daughter had Acute Mild Leukaemia and would certainly die within 48 hours if the family did not immediately consent to chemotherapy treatment on the infant (which also proved to be incorrect). When the family asked for more details, doctors dismissed their requests and reiterated that their consent was mandatory. Shortly after, another UHWI doctor told the family that the child did not actually have cancer – further confusing the family.
Importantly, throughout this process, UHWI doctors withheld from the family the fact that they had information indicating that the treatment could kill the child due to the extreme risks of chemotherapy on infants and that UHWI had already determined that the treatment only had a 40% chance of success if it did not kill the child.
Given the contradictions in medical judgement and the lack of any detailed explanations to the family, the Young family requested a second medical opinion from one of Jamaica’s leading cancer specialists so that they could make the best, informed decision for their child. Mr and Mrs Young never opposed the treatment, but indicated to UHWI that they needed more information since their child’s life depended on it. In their affidavit they state:
“We didn’t want to engage this procedure unless we received some basic information that the procedure was necessary and that this was the only proper course of treatment to give our child a fighting chance at survival. We requested full information to allow us to give informed consent. We were told by UHWI medical staff that we are to simply sign the relevant consent papers.”
Their attempt to get a second medical opinion immediately drew resistance from UHWI, following which the hospital took a series of unlawful and unfortunate acts.
Court orders UHWI to cease withholding complete medical records from the child’s family and to desist from attempting to threaten family
UWHI illegally refused Mr and Mrs Young’s requests for full disclosure of their daughter’s medical records and docket, which were crucial for the independent medical opinion. UHWI declared that the family had no right to that information and instead shared select information that proved to be useless for an independent medical judgement on the best treatment plan.
In response to their requests, UHWI staff threatened to have both parents sent to prison for refusal to consent. Then, UWHI staff told the Youngs that their child did not belong to them, but belonged to the Government, and if they did not sign, she would be taken away from them by the Child Development Agency and given to the hospital.
On Tuesday, JFJ asked the court to order the release of the child’s medical information. The court accepted JFJ’s application and ordered UHWI to release the child’s complete medical docket. It also ordered, “that an independent medical opinion be done…within 24 hours of the date of this Order to assist this court in determining whether the proposed chemotherapy treatment is in the best interest of the child.”
JFJ also applied for special protection for the parents from UHWI’s threats. The court accepted this, condemnedUHWI’s actions against the family and ordered that UHWI be “restrained from seeking to cajole [Mr. and Mrs Young] to consent to a chemotherapy treatment by threat of criminal action of loss of the child as a result of [their] refusal to give un-informed consent.”
Court restrains UHWI from preventing parent from seeing child
Since the hospitalization of their daughter, the Youngs have witnessed a series of concerning medical actions being done to their child and apparent medical errors that prompted them to demand explanations from doctors on duty. No explanations were forthcoming. However, the family observed unlicensed medical students conducting unexplained procedures and making medical mistakes on the baby that caused severe pain and trauma to the child. The students’ errors would later be corrected by actual medical practitioners, who the family report were absent during some of the students’ engagement with the infant.
Mr Young, the child’s father, become very suspicious of these actions and repeatedly requested that his child be transferred to the Bustamante Hospital for Children. When these requests were refused, he requested that these unlicensed students not perform medical procedures on his daughter given her fragile state. These requests were also ignored.
Accordingly, on 10 September 2018 when someone at UHWI sought to withdraw blood from the infant, without explanation or the consent of Mr Young, he objected strongly and raised an alarm. In response, UHWI forcibly removed him from the premises, informed him that he would no longer be allowed to visit or attend to his infant daughter, and banned him from the entire paediatric ward.
JFJ attorneys applied to the court for an order reversing this decision. In response, the Supreme Court has agreed and ordered UHWI to immediately allow Mr Young unrestricted access to his sick infant child, stipulating that UHWI is “restrained from denying [Mr. Young] entry to and attendance upon the paediatric ward. Especially in ward 16. [Mr Young] is to be permitted to see and spend time with his child.”
Hospital staff must be held accountable
Mr and Mrs Young have sought the assistance of JFJ to protect their right – and the right of families nationwide – to credible information necessary to give informed consent. They are disillusioned by the entire process and the treatment they have received from the UHWI.
The family has also contested false accusations by Dr Michelle Reece-Mills filed in UHWI’s legal documents that they refused supportive care and should, therefore, be stripped of the ability to make decisions for their child.
JFJ and the family will be pursuing every possible legal and disciplinary course of action to hold all persons involved accountable. On the family’s instructions, JFJ has commenced processes to have UHWI investigated by the Public Defender and the Ministry of Health and to have the conduct of Dr Peter Glegg, Dr Michelle Reece-Mills and a Dr Kushmar brought before the Medical Council of Jamaica.
– Monique Long, Attorney-at-Law, Policy and Advocacy Manager – (876) 324-5340