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Doctor sued over patient’s death

By Cletus Mushanawani

I will not rest until justice is done. This was a Nyanga villager, Mr James Makunura’s bold statement following the death of his wife and mother of his only daughter as a result of Dr Miriam Kanyenze’s negligence in discharging her duties, a charge she admitted when she was hauled before the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe last year. 

Botched cervical cancer operation leaves Mutare patient Angela Gara in ‘vegetative’ state
Botched cervical cancer operation by Dr Kanyenze left Mutare patient Angela Gara in ‘vegetative’ state

Mr Makunura has been up in arms with the well-known Mutare gynaecologist since 2010, accusing her of negligently causing the death of his late wife, Mildred Makunura, who died on April 9, 2010.

A bitter Mr Makunura, who has embarked on the process of suing Dr Kanyenze for $70 000 at the High Court, said although his wife was gone for good, the world should know the truth surrounding her death at the hands of people he had entrusted to save her life.

Having been unsatisfied with Dr Kanyenze’s conduct, Mr Makunura decided to engage the services of Bere Brothers Legal Practitioners who helped him to take the bull by its horns.

This resulted in the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe finding Dr Kanyenze guilty of improper conduct.

In a letter addressed to Mr Mukunura dated June 3, 2013, written by the council’s registrar, Mrs Josephine Mwakutuya, which this paper has a copy, she wrote: “Council has completed investigating your complaint against Dr Miriam Kanyenze concerning her management of the late Mrs Mildred Makunura.

“Dr Miriam Kanyenze appeared before the Disciplinary Committee on 20 March 2013 and on her admission was found guilty of improper conduct arising from discharging the late Mrs Mildred Makunura from hospital without managing her hypertension.”

When approached for a comment on Wednesday, Mrs Mwakutuya, said: “Many thanks for your inquiry. As advised during our telecom, it might not be possible for you to get the response today as I need to look at the files and respond to you appropriately.

“As indicated to you, I will certainly revert to you before the end of the week. Thank you again for seeking clarification on this matter of public importance.”

Initially, Mr Makunura in December 2010, through his lawyer, Mr Walter Makhuyana from Bere Brothers wrote to Dr Kanyenze demanding $28 600 damages.

The letter reads: “Our client advises that you negligently caused the death of his wife, Mildred Makunura. It is clear that by failing to monitor the proper administration of drugs to your patient and again failing to notice this during the check up, you acted negligently. Worse still, you attempted to cover up your negligence by lying to our client that his wife-your patient died of cancer. The pathologist’s second report clearly showed that Mildred Makunura had no cancer whatsoever.

“It is common cause that you owed your patient, Mildred Makunura a duty of care, which you failed to carry out. Your actions render you criminally and delictually liable.”

After the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council’s ruling, Mr Makhuyana further wrote to Dr Kanyenze on June 7, 2013, saying his client has upped his damages claim to $50 000.

“We are in possession of the decision of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council which found you guilty on your own admission of negligently discharging our client’s late wife without attending to her hypertension. It is common cause that our client’s wife subsequently died as a result of hypertension.”

Dr Kanyenze has since engaged the services of Chibaya and Partners to defend the suit and efforts to get a comment from Mr Chibaya were fruitless as his secretary said he was rushing to court on Wednesday.

When phoned for a comment at her surgery, Dr Kanyenze was reported to be out with Sister Grace Masvingo saying she would convey the message to her. When phoned again later during the day, Dr Kanyenze was reported to be busy with patients.

Mr Makhuyana confirmed the High Court lawsuit and said it was in its preliminary stages.

He, however, said they had renounced their agency, but Mr Makunura was still pursuing the case.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr Makunura, said he wanted $70 000 from Dr Kanyenze as compensation for the bride price he had paid his in-laws, cattle he sold to meet his wife’s medical bills as well as funeral expenses.

“When my wife fell ill in 2009, she was diagnosed of fibroids and we went to Dr Kanyenze’s surgery where she asked us to pay $1 000 for the operation. I struggled to raise the funds and only managed $500. Dr Kanyenze insisted on the full $1 000 upfront before she could carry out the operation. She indicated that I settle the balance with two heads of cattle.

“My late wife was operated by Dr Kanyenze at Mutare Provincial Hospital on July 21, 2009 and the operation was declared successful. In-fact, Dr Kanyenze showed me the fibroid that had been removed during surgery.

“She was discharged on July 27, 2009 and Dr Kanyenze said she should return for a check-up six weeks later. On the day of the check-up, she was advised again that the operation was a success and that no further check-ups were necessary,” said Mr Makunura.

He said his wife fell ill on March 1, 2010, complaining of abdominal pains and bleeding.

“We promptly returned to Dr Kanyenze for assistance on the same day. On arrival, she read my wife’s medical record and stated in shock and disbelief that the nurses on duty on the day of the operation had not administered the medication as she had directed,” said Mr Makunura.

He said his wife was admitted at Mutare Provincial Hospital on March 22, 2010 where Dr Kanyenze carried out another operation on her two days later.

“She did not explain why exactly it was necessary to carry out another operation. On the same day, Dr Kanyenze forwarded another sample to Dr Chigangacha for analysis. This time around it was the intestinal wall omentum, which was the subject of analysis, yet the initial surgery had nothing to do with my late wife’s intestines, but fibroids.

“After the operation, she advised my wife’s brother, Rowland Maunga that my wife had cancer, which had spread so extensively that nothing could be done. She further him that my wife would die in a few days and that it was best to take her home. However, Dr Kanyenze kept my wife in hospital and only discharged her early on the morning of March 29, 2010. My wife died on March 31, 2010, less than two days after being discharged from hospital. When the pathologist report for the second tests came, it was clear that no cancer was present, thus clearly Dr Kanyenze lied to my wife’s brother and me,” complained Mr Makunura.

He said what pained him most was Dr Kanyenze’s dishonest, unprofessional and negligent conduct.

“To add insult to injury, she did not apologise for her negligence, instead when I went to see her after my wife’s death seeking an explanation she treated me with disrespect. She insulted my intelligence insisting that my wife had died of cancer. She told me to stop bothering her and go home.

I strongly feel that such behaviour is at odds with the ethics of the medical profession,” said Mr Makunura. Manica Post