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Medical Law

Medico-Legal Centre: Death Reports Must Be As Detailed As Medical Reports

During the 2024 Annual Medico-Legal Centre Lecture in Abuja, an emphasis was placed on ensuring that death reports and medical reports were equally detailed.

The Founder and Executive Director of the Molluma Yakubu Centre for Medical Law, Gloria Mabeiam Ballasson, Esq., said at the moment, Nigeria was working behind the clock as countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and many European countries have firm laws in place for medical accountability.

Barrister Ballasson said the need to have detailed death report as medical report is rooted in international fundamental rights, such as the right to access to information as provided for in the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

She said, “Here in Nigeria, the situation is most dire. A 2017 study survey on medical errors published by archives of Medicine and Health Sciences showed a prevalence of negligence at 42.8% per 145 medical practitioners with death rate as high as 250,000 per annum. This makes medical error the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and cardiovascular disease in Nigeria.

“It is, therefore, crystal clear that legal accountability for medical negligence is both a regional and national emergency. It cannot wait. Legal accountability for deaths caused by medical negligence is crucial not just for saving lives but for improving our health care systems.

“There is a need for a culture of responsibility and transparency within the healthcare system. This culture needs to be imbibed and incorporated by both medical practitioners, health institutions and legal practitioners.

“At the moment, Nigeria is working behind the clock. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and many European countries have firm laws in place for medical accountability. While the laws vary in their specifics, they generally work to hold healthcare professionals and health institutions accountable for their actions to ensure patient safety and quality health care. It is no coincidence that these countries are top medical tourism destinations.

“In furtherance to this, the Molluma Yakubu Medico-Legal Centre at House of Justice makes a clear demand: All death reports need to be as clear and as detailed as medical reports. Nigerians deserve to know the actual cause of death and not the approximate cause of death.”

On his part, the guest lecturer at the event, Professor Once Gye-Wado, of the Faculty of Law, University of Jos, said the sphere of human transaction has continually employed both ethics and law to stabilise and regulate itself.

He said it is so evident in the area of health that both ethics and law are so intertwined that it has equally generated a fairly harmonised relationship.

According to him, “Law has benefited from the ethical standards in setting up the legal framework for an effective system. The frailty human system has generated, sometimes very violent conversation that has continued to improve the system.

“When the national system is challenged, there arises citizens’ health crisis. Patients are persons that crave for a case. Since the beginning, patients have always hoped their transactions with their caregivers are private and confidential.

“Codes of ethical responses have developed and consequently created legal regimes in relations to patients. Generally, therefore, the patient has been a focus and more fundamentally as a person with a bundle of rights and allegations. Within the realm of human rights, the privacy of persons has been secured. Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the inviolability of he privacy of individuals.

“There is a nexus between the right of privacy and the right of the dignity of the person. Infact, privacy includes also the home, correspondences and all that appertain to the totality of the inner recess of a person. The right of privacy drives into confidentiality with codes and legal rules and regulations.”

Special guest at the occasion included; Justice Husseini Baba Yusuf, Chief Justice of the Federal CapitalnTerrotory High Court; Amos Gwamnar Magaji, House of Representatives Committe Chairman on Health Institutions; Mr Hahaha Dansabe Dangana, SAN; Prof. Anthony John Dadah of the Department of Microbiology, Kaduna State University, and Damilola Alabi, Esq.