ConCourt to hear medical emergency case

2015-02-25 15:43
(File, Sapa)

(File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court will hear argument on Thursday in a case about an injured schoolboy's rights to emergency medical treatment after he was injured in a rugby match.

Charles Oppelt suffered a low velocity spinal cord injury during the match in March 2002.

Thirteen hours later doctors operated on him, but he was left severely paralysed.

In the Western Cape High Court, Oppelt tried to claim damages from the head of the provincial health department and three organisations responsible for the administration of the rugby game in which he was injured.

The high court dismissed his claims against the rugby organisations, but found the department's staff failed to treat the spinal injuries timeously.

An expert witness for Oppelt testified that if the procedure had been performed within four hours of the injury, Oppelt would probably not have become a quadriplegic. A witness for the department disputed this.

The high court found the department's staff were negligent as they had not timeously referred Oppelt to a specialised hospital.

The unreasonable delays justified the conclusion that the department refused emergency medical treatment to Oppelt, as provided for in section 27(3) of the Constitution.

As such, the court concluded that the department was liable for Oppelt's proven damages.

The department successfully appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which found the validity of the methods employed by Oppelt's expert could not be proved on a balance of probabilities.

In the Constitutional Court, Oppelt argues the SCA's approach to evaluating expert medical evidence was wrong and that the SCA denied him a fair hearing.

The department opposed the application, arguing the SCA's method of evaluating the medical evidence was sound. It argues that the constitutional rights Oppelt depends on are not applicable in this case.

Read more on:    constitutional court

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