Tarik, Chaka Uzondu and Biko Stevens, (r), the distraught sons of Barry and Esme Stevens, carrying their mother’s casket at her funeral. Esme died on September 11, three days after what family members say was a routine medical procedure. (Photo courtesy Stevens family)

A family is demanding that the government move swiftly to properly enforce the Antigua and Barbuda ‘Medical Practitioners Act of 2009’, particularly the section which speaks to the formation of a Disciplinary Committee to investigate and punish any wrongdoings on the part of medical practitioners in Antigua and Barbuda.

They are also calling for licensed medical practitioners in Antigua and Barbuda to be held accountable for their actions if a procedure goes wrong. The demands are contained in a petition launched by the family of Esme Stevens, who died on September 11 following what family members say was a routine medical procedure which later went wrong.

One of Steven’s sons Chaka Uzondu, who spoke from Ghana last week, explained, “Our mom went in for a colonoscopy … she went in on the 8th, after having the procedure done she had pain. She complained about the \pain, we spoke to the doctor and he insisted the pain was due to gas and bloating and therefore she should take the painkillers and some other drug which he had recommended, which we did. The second day, which was the 9th she had pain which continued and we started to have concerns because knowing her, she is a person who bears pain quite well, and if she was complaining of pain like this then something seemed a bit off. Again, the doctor insisted it was just an instance of bloating and she should continue taking the pain killers, let it run its course – which was a five-day prescription and she should be fine thereafter.”

A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.

The son said the pain following the colonoscopy continued into the third day and when another brother, Tariq Uzondu called the doctor and explained that the pain had become unbearable and his mother could not walk, the doctor told the him to take Stevens to the hospital’s fourth floor. It allegedly took the doctor two hours to see his mother and another eight hours before she was taken into the theatre for an emergency surgery and shortly afterwards “she was declared dead” Chaka said.

It should be noted that the initial colonoscopy procedure was done at a private doctor, but the woman’s children say that regardless of where the procedure was done, a complaint about the actions or inaction of a doctor working privately or at a public hospital would have to be made to a Disciplinary Committee under the Medical Practitioners Act and such a committee is, according to them, not in place.

OBSERVER media was unable to verify this up to last night as several doctors said they were not sure if it was in fact set up. Two of them who spoke but did not want to be named, said steps were being made to set up the committee last year but they had no idea if it happened.

Meanwhile, Tariq told OBSERVER media last night that very few people have the financial means to take legal action and it is through this committee they should be able to file complaints and get some form of justice.

Under the Act, if the Disciplinary Committee, or the majority of the Disciplinary Committee, decides that a complaint is well-founded it may make the recommendations it considers just, including a recommendation to

(a) remove from the Medical Register the name of the medical practitioner;

(b) suspend the medical practitioner’s licence to practise medicine;

(c) revoke the medical practitioner’s licence to practise medicine;