The Civil Division of the High Court has mandated Mulago Hospital to compensate a 47-year-old woman with 50 million shillings for the psychological distress and trauma she endured upon losing her baby.
Justice Phillip Odoki, in his verdict, pointed out that Mulago Hospital’s failure to promptly deliver Nakayima’s baby and provide information about the baby’s fate, whether dead or alive, violated her health rights as outlined in Article 45 of the Constitution and other International Human Rights Instruments.
In 2016, Nakayima, in collaboration with the Centre for Health, Human Rights, and Development (CEHURD), filed a lawsuit against the Executive Director of Mulago Hospital and the Attorney General.
Their plea sought the hospital to disclose the whereabouts of her baby, alive or deceased, and demanded compensation for the infringement of her and her child’s human rights. They contended that the hospital’s withholding of information subjected Nakayima to psychological torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Nakayima recounted her experience, stating that after delivering at Mulago Hospital through cesarean section, she was informed that her baby boy, weighing 3.5kg, had lived briefly and died.
However, she was never allowed to see the body, and her attempts to communicate with the Hospital Director proved futile.
Justice Odoki stressed in his ruling that Nakayima endured severe psychological trauma, impacting her mental well-being. He deemed this a violation of her right to health, emphasizing that all her endeavors to locate her baby, whether alive or dead, were in vain.
Dorothy Amuron, Acting Director of Programmes at CEHURD, hailed the ruling for highlighting the importance of safety in Ugandan public health facilities. Nakayima’s case marked the fourth handled by CEHURD.
Nakayima revealed that upon regaining consciousness, she inquired about her baby, only to be informed by a health worker that she had delivered a baby boy weighing 3.5 kg, who sadly passed away shortly after birth. Requests for the baby’s body yielded no results.
Amuron urged the government to establish a system ensuring effective tracking of newborns from delivery to departure from health facilities. This case underscores the accountability of public health facilities for any loss of a newborn child.
This wasn’t the first time Mulago Hospital faced a court order to pay damages for a missing child. In 2012, Jennifer Musimenta and Michael Mubangizi sued the hospital after their child went missing at birth.
Despite the hospital providing them with a baby, DNA tests later revealed it was not their child. In 2017, Justice Lydia Mugambe ordered the hospital to compensate the couple with 85 million shillings following a successful case filed by CEHURD.