Health Minister-Designate’s US$6M Wrongful Death Case Postponed

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Late Desiree husband Larry Fahnbullah (middle, with brown suit) and church and family members at the Civil Law Court, at the Temple of Justice

The long-awaited US$6m Damages for Wrongful Death lawsuit brought by family members of late Desiree Fahnbulleh against Health Minister-designate Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah could not take place on Friday because Dr. Jallah’s legal team changed their mind to have the matter determined by Civil Law Court ‘B’ at the Temple of Justice.

Initially, Cllr. Johnny Momoh, the lead lawyer for Dr. Jallah, filed a motion asking for a change of venue, claiming that if the matter were to be decided in Monrovia, especially at the Civil Law Court, he feared that it would be manipulated with what is considered “local prejudice,” and would deny his client of justice.

Desiree Fahnbulleh, who was a pastor, died on December 8, 2016, at Jallah’s private hospital, Hope for Women International Incorporated, for which the victim’s family, especially her husband Larry Fahnbulleh, is now claiming US$6 million “for his wife’s wrongful death.”

But Dr. Jallah, along with some of her employees, including Dr. Loraine Cooper, who was said to have performed the surgery prior to Madam Fahnbullah’s death and a nurse, named as Sarah, an Anesthetist, were mentioned by the lawsuit.

The Fahnbulleh’s lawsuit was based on a finding and recommendation by the Ethics and Disciplinary Committee of the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC).

In the report, the LMDC claimed that there were several procedural decisional lapses on the part of the defendants that caused the death of Pastor Fahnbulleh.

“The defendants did not follow the rule referred to in a tertiary hospital as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),” the LMDC’s report alleged.

The document also claimed that Dr. Cooper, who performed the caesarian section, on the victim, did not have the requisite experience and qualification for the performance of said medical treatment, but they ignored it, thereby being responsible for Pastor Fahnbullah’s death.

Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Health Minister-designate and Founder and CEO, Hope For Women Hospital

Reacting to the LMDC’s finding, in their answer to the court, Jallah’s lead lawyer Momoh argued that the committee failed to state the procedural and decisional lapses carried-out by the defendants.

They also argued that the report was not supported by evidence, “making it speculative, inconclusive, uncertain and, therefore questionable and it did not hold them, defendants liable for medical malpractice or negligence,” Momoh further argued.

Moreover, Momoh argued that the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the LMDC have not promulgated any rule for a referral to tertiary hospital by a medical institution.

On the situation of Dr. Cooper not being qualified to perform the caesarian section, Momoh alleged that Cooper had practiced medicine for the past six years at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center (JFKMC) and, also in Grand Cape Mount County, where she served as a medical doctor and had performed several surgical operations at those facilities, where she had worked, including Tubal Ligation that Madam Fahnbullah died of.

“The LMDC has not stated any duty that was owed to the late Desiree and was not performed by Dr. Cooper resulted in her death,” Jallah’s lawyers said.

They alleged that Cooper, as a general practitioner, acted beyond and above her scope of practice and took responsibility to take care of a patient to be attended to by people serving in such a position of general practitioners.

According to the document, Momoh argued that the defendants as medical practitioners were under the duty to provide medical services needed to save both Desiree and her unborn baby, or either of them.

“Attending to such procedures especially so when this was the third caesarian that the late Desiree was to undergo, she was later advised that a third of such an operation was risky to her life and her health,” the defense response alleged.

In the lawsuit filed in August 2017, the family argued that Dr. Jallah who had assured Madam Fahnbulleh that she would have a safe delivery in the country after she sought advice to travel outside Liberia for her treatment.

Before then, the suit claimed that Dr. Jallah advised her to do “a bilateral tubal ligation to prevent another pregnancy,” which they alleged Dr. Jallah assured her that she had performed that service.

Unfortunately, the record claimed, Desiree got pregnant a year after Dr. Jallah assured Desiree that she had performed the medical service to prevent her from becoming pregnant.

Besides, the document alleged, Dr. Jallah advised Desiree to abort the pregnancy, which she refused, because of her religious belief.

“Dr. Jallah exhibited sheer negligence that caused the death of Desiree Fahnbullah and should be held liable for Wrongful Death and made to pay US$6m,” the suit maintained.

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