Even someone without formal training can understand a few basics about taking care of a newborn. The newborn needs cleanliness, food, water, love, attention, affection. These are basic needs… and babies will explain when they are hungry. Mothers around the world understand that without being told.
However, apparently the National Health Service is somehow liable because it didn’t properly inform two immigrant parents that their child, like literally every other living organism on Earth, needed food. Midwives apparently failed to explain in a way that crossed the ‘language barrier,’ that the refugees needed to feed their child, and now the family is going to win millions from the National Health Service (NHS) in litigation.
The Rajathapeen family came to England as refugees from Sri Lanka, a small third-world nation off the coast of India. The family came to England during the Sri Lankan Civil War, a long-term conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the ‘Tamil Tigers,’ and gave birth to a son, Nilujan, at King George Hospital in Essex in July 2009. They were welcomed, and given taxpayer healthcare.
The child was born healthy and with no major health issues in July 2009. However, nurses visited the family next day and found that his parents failed to feed him for 15 hours, leaving Nilujan left limp and sick.
According to the decision in the case, Mrs. Rajathapeen and her son, Nilujan, were discharged from the hospital too soon.
The nurses rushed Nilujan back to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with brain damage as a result of his parents’ failure to feed him.
Now, seven years later, he suffers from cerebral palsy, as well as severe mental and physical disabilities.
Judge Martin McKenna decided in favor of the parents, saying that the National Health Service failed to render them the appropriate care.
He claimed that when medics visited Nilujan at home a day after he was released, the parents were “effectively ignored” when the medics noticed that the child was in terrible health and looked unwell.
They also were not ‘properly’ instructed in the importance of taking care of their child, including feeding him. Because Mrs. Rajathapeen and her husband, Sivarajah Rajathapeen, barely speak English, the judge deemed that they were not properly given instructions on taking care of their child by the midwives.
The midwives disagree, and say that they have given instructions to many other people who do not understand English without similar issues arising.
Due to the ‘failures’ of the midwives and the hospital that delivered the child, the refugees won a civil lawsuit against the King George Hospital in Essex. The only question now is how much money they will receive.
The judge suggests that the amount of money the family receives could be well into seven figures, and that the compensation awarded will take into account a number of factors, including the long-term nature of the ‘damage’ caused by the failure to properly explain to the Rajathapeens that they had to feed their child.
The National Health Service is using the incident as a ‘teaching’ experience, hoping to ensure that they will be able to avoid lawsuit and injury to patients in the future. Wendy Matthews, OBE and Director of Midwifery for a number of NHS hospitals, said that they are heeding the judgment in the case.
Further, she suggests that although the NHS system has improved since 2009, they will use this time to review the case and see if there are “any more lessons about our post-natal care” that the NHS can learn.
Wendy Matthews also extended her sincerest apologies to the Rajathapeens.
However, it would be very interesting to see people from Sri Lanka who don’t speak at least basic English.
England controlled Sri Lanka, also sometimes called Ceylon, since the early 1800’s. It didn’t earn its independence until nearly 1950.
Further, English is a widely-spoken language in Sri Lanka. At least 10 percent of the nation speaks it fluently as the native tongue. It is the language used for most official capacities in the nation, simply because it is a common language that most people understand to some extent in the nation.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka even lists English as the nation’s ‘link’ language.
England is a nation that has a large immigrant populace. It is hard to believe that the nurses wouldn’t be able to find someone who could translate, or that they would not be able to find someone who could help explain with hand motions.
Furthermore, people have understood the basics of feeding their children for millennia. It seems absurd that some organization would be liable for teaching a new mother to do so, or that she could sue the entity that paid for the birth her child because she didn’t understand one of the most basic tenets of childcare.
But apparently, in England, she can, and she’s likely to get millions of pounds for doing so.