A social innovator at Diverse Health Help Society and a public health expert, Dr. Adanma Odefu Wachuku has praised the Lagos State government for securing the conviction of Dr. Ejike Ferdinand Orji, marking the first conviction of a medical doctor in Nigeria for medical negligence.
During a media chat in Abuja, Wachuku expressed her appreciation for the judgment, describing it as a watershed moment in medical jurisprudence in the country.
Justice Adedayo Akintoye of the Lagos High Court handed down the sentence on January 20, 2023, sentencing Orji, the Medical Director of Excel Medical Centre, Dolphin Estate, to one year in prison for causing grievous harm, negligence and endangering the life of a 16-year-old patient.
Orji was found guilty on four of the six counts brought against him.
Wachuku also extended accolades to the Lagos State Criminal Justice system for setting this groundbreaking precedent. She emphasised that this conviction, resulting from criminal negligence in the reckless practice of medicine, is a historic moment and it paves the way for more successful prosecutions of negligent doctors who previously operated with impunity.
Wachuku delved into the regulation of the medical profession in Nigeria, emphasising the role of the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act (MDPA). This act established the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to oversee medical education, registration, licensing and the criminalisation of medicine practised by unregistered individuals.
The MDPA also established two professional bodies, the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Investigation Panel and the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal, to investigate and discipline registered medical practitioners.
Wachuku underscored the importance of balancing regulation with the advancement of the medical profession for the benefit of the Nigerian people. She praised the dedication of healthcare professionals to patient care while highlighting the need for accountability and regulation to ensure public safety.
Furthermore, Wachuku called on other state governments to follow Lagos’ example in standing up for patients who suffer due to negligence by healthcare practitioners. She cited the case of Orji, who applied a fibreglass cast to a patient without conducting an x-ray, resulting in severe harm to the patient.
This landmark conviction and the focus on accountability serve as a crucial step in ensuring public safety and preventing medical negligence in Nigeria. It sends a strong message that negligent medical practitioners will be held accountable for their actions.
Recalling the charges brought against Orji, including causing grievous bodily harm and endangering human life, Wachuku highlighted the significance of this case in establishing a precedent for medical negligence in the country.