Shell petroleum doctors’ trial begins tomorrow

Justice Weli Chechey of the Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has reserved December 8, 2021, for hearing of a suit filed by a couple, Emeka Okoli and his wife, Stella, who are employees of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, over alleged medical negligence against the company (SPDC), and two others.

The couple is praying the court to order damages of N50 billion.

Besides Shell, two other respondents in the suit are Dr Alexander Dimoko and Dr Dafe Akpoduado, who were medical doctors that performed an appendectomy surgery on the couple’s son, Master Chinazam Okoli, sometime in September 2016.

In the suit marked PHC/2338/2021, filed by the claimant’s counsel, Professor Akin Ibidapo-Obe, alleged serial acts of negligence by Shell Hospital in Port Harcourt, which began with the decision to operate without conducting necessary and appropriate scientific inquiry.

In their 55 paragraph Statement of Claims, they alleged that a procedure that the doctors claimed would take forty-five minutes extended to five hours at the end of which their son was wheeled out unconscious and suffering severe seizures.

Whilst Shell’s doctors claimed the outcome was a result of a drug reaction; qualified specialists in South Africa and the United States, have confirmed hypoxia caused by lack of oxygen to the brain during surgery.

The claimants alleged that Dr Dafe Akpoduado, the Anaethetist allegedly wrongly administered spinal instead of general anaesthesia, and did not administer appropriate drugs in anticipation of the complications that ultimately caused Chinazam’s brain damage.

The victim now aged fifteen is unable to perform independently any activity of daily living-walk, talk, eat, sit or care for himself.

He is constantly drooling, suffers regular seizures and must be carried in and out of a wheelchair or bed. Since then, the Okoli family including two older sisters aged 17 and 19 years have had their lives disrupted and have suffered psychological trauma.

Shell management is alleged to have embarked on a pattern of deceit and non-disclosure of medical records in an attempt to cover up the negligence.

Also, the claimant stated that Shell allegedly commissioned an external medical expert to review Chinazam’s botched operation, but the report of the expert was kept secret from the claimants despite repeated demands.

“Allegedly on the strength of the report of the external expert, the two doctors involved were sacked, yet Shell allegedly refused to take responsibility for the negligence and to provide a Viable Life Care Plan for Chinazam even as they have allegedly rejected a Life Care Plan provided by reputable doctors in the United States.”

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