‘Amputate or die’: KZN Department of Health in desperate bid to save baby’s life

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A baby boy is the subject of a heartbreaking court order at Pietermaritzburg.
A baby boy is the subject of a heartbreaking court order at Pietermaritzburg.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health turned to the high court on New Year’s Day to save a baby’s life by performing “amputations” that the parents had refused to consent to.

The parents’ actions amounted to “euthanasia”, Dr Oliver Mahomva, the head of plastic surgery at Grey’s Hospital, said in court papers.

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He said that the child’s family had stated that, “if he dies, he should die with his limbs intact”.

Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Jerome Mnguni ordered the mother or any family member to sign the forms authorising the department to perform the necessary operations/amputations on the three-month-old child.

The department was also ordered to perform all necessary operations, amputations and debridement (a procedure for treating a wound in the skin) and render all necessary medical treatment and interventions in treating the child.

The surgery was supposed to have taken place four to five hours after the application was granted, which was on Friday.

The Witness has not been able to establish if the court orders were implemented but has ascertained that the baby is still alive.

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The Department of Health would not comment, saying it is a legal matter.

Dr Mahomva said in court papers that the child had a right to life, which included that medical surgery be performed to save his life.

Going into the background of the matter, he said that the mother, who lives in Pietermaritzburg, took her baby to Northdale Hospital on December 14. He had diarrhoea and had been vomiting for a number of days.

Mahomva added that the baby was assessed and diagnosed to be dehydrated and in severe shock due to diarrhoea and vomiting, meaning the child lacked necessary fluids to support blood circulation. He was treated and his condition improved. However, further medical intervention was still necessary in order to save the child’s “unhealthy condition due to the diarrhoea and vomiting”, added Mahomva.

A medical report said that on the same day the patient’s left foot, left forearm and right leg were noted to be changing colour.

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Mahomva said that the child’s condition necessitated that he be transferred to Grey’s Hospital paediatric intensive care unit the next day, for ventilation for septic shock.

He said Dr Elizabeth Morgan, the head of the clinical department of paediatrics and child health, was of the opinion that the child had a gangrene infection and had not responded to medical treatment for 11 days.

She found that the only solution to his condition was an urgent amputation since the infection was spreading rapidly with the development of pneumonia.

She said the infection could lead to further complications of multiple blood clots moving from the heart to every organ in the body, resulting in multi-organ failure and sudden death.

Her view was that the child’s only chance of survival was amputation of the affected area.

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Mahomva shared this opinion.

He said he discussed with the mother that the child needed surgical interventions, amputation below the left knee and further surgery.

She refused to sign the consent forms and so did the child’s father.

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