Thursday, May 10, 2012

Justice Functioned Properly in Doctor's Case Study, Says Equatorial Guinea

Case of malpractice was brought by victim's family, Court acted on evidence presented

The government of Equatorial Guinea today said that its courts acted properly in the malpractice conviction of Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo, rebutting claims by human rights groups that the trial was politically motivated.

In a statement that detailed some of the evidence heard at trial, the government recounted events surrounding the death of Isilda Engo Mangue, who died of cardiac arrest while being prepared for a surgery. The court found that the victim died from improper administration of anesthesia and that the clinic did not have adequate personnel on hand during the surgery. The government noted that the case was brought by the family of the deceased and that the court functioned with complete independence.

“The case has arisen from a most particular and private accusation from the family of the deceased patient, and was carried out under the guaranteed independence of the judiciary. The accused have been tried in the first instance, and can appeal the sentence, following the usual channels prescribed by the justice system,” said the government statement.

The government noted that some of the accusations against Dr. Mansogo, including charges that the body of the deceased had been mutilated, were rejected by the court.

Some human rights groups had charged that the case was politically motivated because Dr. Mansogo was a member of the opposition party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS). The government responded, “Wenceslao Mansogo has always exercised his political career as well as his medical profession with respect and freedom in Equatorial Guinea. To demand special treatment for Dr. Mansogo, accused by a private family, because he is a politician known abroad and belonging to the opposition, would be a clear distortion of the most important democratic and social values, and an attack on the right to the blind justice demanded by the family of the victim, who presented this complaint.”

A full text of the government’s statement follows:

The Provincial Court of Bata recently issued its judgment in the trial of Wenceslao Mansogo Alo and the anesthesiologist Asunción Asumu Mangue, both defendants in a case of criminal negligence arising from professional malpractice resulting in the death of the patient Isilda Engo Mangue.

The press interest in this case stems from the fact that Dr. Mansogo is a known leader of the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS). This political formation has spread the idea that Mansogo trial is the result of political persecution. However, the case stems from solely from a private party’s accusation: the one made by the family of Mangue Isilda Engo, a patient who died in Dr. Mansogo’s clinic after suffering two heart attacks during an operation that the surgeon was to perform.

The trial was conducted in the city of Bata, on April 9, 2012, by the criminal division of the Litoral (province) Provincial Court in the court of Judge Elisha Mengue Oyana Nvo. Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo was represented by attorneys Elijah Ponciano Mbomio Nvo and Elías Nzo Ondo, while the anesthetist was represented by attorney Santiago Mbasi Ondo. The prosecutor in the case, Claudio Ndongula Mesanga, previously requested a sentence of six years in prison.

During the trial, the defendant disputed the conclusions of the report issued earlier by the technical committee chaired by Dr. Salomón Nguema Owono, which determined that the death of the deceased was caused by the anesthesia that was administered. He also argued that his clinic did not lack the professional or technical means to perform the planned surgery. For her part, the anesthetist, despite in spite of her disagreement with the expert report, acknowledged that the patient suffered two cardiac arrests during the preparation for the operation, a situation with which she was forced to call two professional colleagues from the Bata Regional Hospital (Drs. Apolinar González Pelayo and Asunción ion Edegu Edegue anesthetist), in the absence of assistance and personnel at the clinic where the operation was taking place. Those specialists also appeared as witnesses in the trial.

Relatives of the victim, her husband, Julian Yekue Nsi, and her father, or father, Aba Gil Engo Abogo,  also testified. he husband of the deceased said that when he went to collect the body he was given two different explanations for his wife’s death: one, that the deceased could not stand the anesthesia applied and a second, that the patient had died from cardiac arrest.

The sentence records, as proven facts--among others--that coordination between the surgeon and anesthetist was not good, since the latter had to call two friends from a different clinic, when the patient had already suffered a second cardiac arrest, given the lack of coordination and lack of assistance because of the absence of staff assigned to the anesthesiology and resuscitation section.

The statement also questions the urgency of the operation, the same day as the visit of the patient with her anesthesiologist, because Isilda Mangue’s condition was not serious. Similarly, the court rejected the claim that the genital organs of the deceased had been removed during the operation, a charge initially made against the doctor by the family of the deceased.

The ruling specifically sentences the accused for recklessness arising from professional negligence resulting in death, with the following penalties: Dr. Wenceslao Mansogo Alo is convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment at lower-medium level, suspension from the practice of his profession for five years and a fine of 1,500,000 cfa (central African francs). The anesthetist Asunción Mangue was sentenced to six months less one day in prison, suspended from the exercise of her profession for the duration of the sentence, and fine of 500,000 cfa. It was also agreed to temporarily close the Espoir Bata Litoral medical center for the duration of the owner’s sentence, although the clinic is obliged to pay five million cfa to the survivors of the deceased as compensatory damages.

Despite the proclamations of the CPDS party and other criticisms in this regard, the case has arisen from a most particular and private accusation from the family of the deceased patient, and was carried out under the guaranteed independence of the judiciary. The accused have been tried in the first instance, and can appeal the sentence, following the usual channels prescribed by the justice system.
Wenceslao Mansogo has always exercised his political career as well as his medical profession with respect and freedom in Equatorial Guinea. To demand special treatment for Dr. Mansogo, accused by a private family, because he is a politician known abroad and belonging to the opposition, would be a clear distortion of the most important democratic and social values, and an attack on the right to the blind justice demanded by the family of the victim, who presented this complaint.