- A few years ago, we were asked to attend to a legal matter related to the issue of a doctor charged with acting in a manner that could have led to the slow development of a child he had helped deliver in a local hospital.
- In a nutshell the family held the view that the reason their child development was slower than that of their other children was because the attending doctor arrived in the delivery room drunk that Saturday evening.
You have asked what on the surface is a straight forward question, but in reality this is a most complex matter as you will see. What comes to mind is why you might in the first place be interested in the answer to this question. Are you for example the mother or father of a toddler who is slow in developing or are you a student who has to answer this question in class. Whatever your standpoint in this matter I will assume that you are a lay person without medical training and will, therefore, start with a long story.
A few years ago, we were asked to attend to a legal matter related to the issue of a doctor charged with acting in a manner that could have led to the slow development of a child he had helped deliver in a local hospital.
In a nutshell the family held the view that the reason their child development was slower than that of their other children was because the attending doctor arrived in the delivery room drunk that Saturday evening.
The doctor’s response was that indeed he had drunk some alcohol but denied a link between the fact of his drinking and the slow development of the child.
The truth as established later was that yes, the doctor had been drinking that afternoon but that did not lead to the complication that was witnessed.
The problem had occurred in the child after birth had been discussed as a possibility with the family in the early stages of the pregnancy. The mother of the child was the problem as she continued to drink heavily during this pregnancy.
This was the true cause of the brain damage that had now occurred.
During the evolution of the case, and in a moment of misguided enthusiasm (as it turned out), the husband claimed that the baby was not his, because in their family there are no cases of slow mental development.
He requested and was granted the right to have a DNA test done, that subsequently opened up a Pandora’s Box.
The test showed that he was not the father of the baby and the mother insisted that he was. A new battlefront opened. The doctor was free, and the mother became the accused.
LIFE IN HELL
Life became hell for this couple that sued the doctor. The medical notes he had kept during the period of follow up set him free because he had recorded in detail the warnings and tests during the pregnancy that confirmed his assertion that the woman had been drinking too much during pregnancy.
The warnings and advice were on record.
The matter did not end well for the woman and her pastor. One of the neighbours had noticed that the pastor made many late evening visits to this lonely woman whose husband worked out of town.
She had become suspicious when her neighbour (the now accused) in one of her drunken rumbling moments told her that the pastor was giving her a ‘good time’ during the visits.
This did not make sense at the time but she noticed an increase in the visits and further noted that at the maid and the children were always sent on a church mission during such visits. This was before this pregnancy.
When the matters of the family came to the public, she volunteered her story to her friend who told a friend and soon the matter got to the husband who demanded a test to determine paternity. The test results came back.
The pastor agreed that he was the father. Things went downhill from there. He had been on treatment for HIV for years and he possibly infected her as she also tested positive.
Could this be another cause of delayed development in the baby? The paediatrician thought this might be the case. During the trial, an expert witness was asked the question that you have asked and explained that slow development could be due to many factors ranging from genetics, environment as well as nutrition.
He explained that each case must be treated in its own merit by looking at possible causes before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after delivery. He also pointed out that in this case it is possible that both alcohol and HIV could have played a role.
Yours is a simple question with a complicated answer.