Two Nigerian women, Ajima Ogbole- Spittael and Susan Ogbole have raised alarm over the medical injustice they suffered at the hands of Belgian doctors which led to the loss of cervix and paralysis for the women.
Ogbole Spittael, 35, married to a Belgian and based in Belgium said she was diagnosed with multiple fibroids at Az Sint-Jan Bruges, Belgium in 2017 while she and her husband were trying to conceive. However, during the surgery, the surgeon erroneously amputated her cervix, making her incapable of carrying a pregnancy.
Although the removal of the fibroid from her womb was successful – about 13 growths were removed, the hospital via its insurer refused to admit that there was a medical error during the surgery. In a letter sent to the couple, the insurer said the hospital has no liability in Mrs Ogbole-Spittael’s case, saying “the difference between a fibroid and cervix tissue was very difficult.” Therefore they can’t intervene in the damage.
However, in 2019 the hospital admitted the medical errors after months of experts medical analysis and reports. Following the admittance of error, the hospital accepted the responsibility and was to negotiate compensation with the couple through its insurer which till date has not been paid, as Ethias, which was meant to work out a compensation package is not forthcoming.
After this ill event, Ogbole Spittael gynecologist told her she could no longer get pregnant either naturally or artificially, instead she was given the option of becoming a parent through surrogacy which she accepted. So, she consulted members of her family and her sister in law, Susan Ogbole accepted to carry the child for her.
Susan, who narrated her experience said she had a healthy pregnancy, same as her two previous pregnancies and went into the hospital- same Az Sint-Jan Bruges on 15th October 2020, the scheduled day of the pregnancy but got paralysed in the process of the cesarean operation and has remained in the hospital since then.
When questioned on why they used the same hospital despite the encounter they had, Ogbole Spittael said it was due to proximity and referral from other professionals. “We were not expecting another mistake, also, the medical doctor that attended to me first was very remorseful of the outcome and called me personally to apologise. We didn’t think another mistake could occur.”
“Susan opted for a planned C-section, which took place on 15th of October 2020. Susan went into hospital as a full able-bodied woman. She was given an epidural during labour. As a result, Susan is now paralyzed and is still in hospital since giving birth to our baby,” Mrs Ogbole-Spittael said.
Once again the Belgian hospital has failed to acknowledge the errors but keeps sending bills to the family.
The effect of this has taken its toll on Susan’s family in Nigeria. Her husband and the younger brother to Mrs Ogbole-Spittael, explained how he and his children aged three and five, are suffering from the hardship brought on the family through medical negligence, psychologically affected by the absence of their mum and could feel that something is off in the family.
Moreover, Mrs Ogbole Spittael, despite getting a surrogate is yet to be recognized as the legal mother of the baby, even when her husband has been registered as the father. If Susan leaves Belgium in October 2021 then her ability to be the full legal mother of the child would be denied.
In all this, the hospital has failed to respond or reply to the letters or medical errors. Instead, the hospital threatened to drag the case in court and eventually force the family to back out.
Williams Spittael, Ajima’s Belgian husband, said all attempts to get the Belgian authority to wade into the matter have been unsuccessful. “We hired lawyers for both cases to fight for the injustice done to Ajima and Susan, especially Susan that is still lying on the hospital bed.”
Listing their demands, the Ogbole family requested for an acceptance of medical errors in the case of Susan Ogbole, a letter of unreserved apology in three national dailies in Belgium by AZ Sint-Jan Bruges and for the hospital to take financial responsibility for all of Mrs Ogbole’s treatments.
In addition, they want the Belgian authorities “to consider a bill to grant a humanitarian stay to Susan and patients’ stay in Susan’s situation.” Also, family wants the Belgian authority to consider legislation that sets up an independent commission that adjudicates in matters where settlement impasse exists between patients and hospitals/insurance companies.