Trinidad mother threatens to sue state for care of Zika baby

(Trinidad Guardian) The moth­er of a two-year-old boy with birth de­fects as­so­ci­at­ed with the Zi­ka virus has threat­ened to sue the State over its fail­ure to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive health care for the tod­dler.

In a pre-ac­tion pro­to­col let­ter sent to the Min­istry of Health, Health Min­is­ter Ter­rance Deyals­ingh and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al on De­cem­ber 19, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the woman al­leged that she and oth­er par­ents with chil­dren suf­fer­ing from mi­cro­cephaly had a le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion that they would re­ceive spe­cialised treat­ment and coun­selling through the pub­lic health care sys­tem.

While the let­ter iden­ti­fies the woman and her son, their at­tor­neys re­quest­ed that they re­main anony­mous to pro­tect the child.

In the pro­posed law­suit, the fam­i­ly’s lawyers are re­ly­ing on a se­ries of pub­lic state­ments made by Deyals­ingh dur­ing the world­wide Zi­ka out­break in 2016.

They claim that on Oc­to­ber 31, 2016, Deyals­ingh held a press con­fer­ence dur­ing which he de­clared the out­break a pub­lic health emer­gency and stat­ed that his min­istry had en­list­ed the help of mi­cro­cephaly ex­perts from Brazil, Cana­da and Eng­land. They al­so al­leged that Deyals­ingh promised that the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment would pro­vide grants to fam­i­lies who did not have the fi­nan­cial re­sources to pro­vide op­ti­mum care for such chil­dren.

How­ev­er, when they wrote to that min­istry to seek the funds, they were in­formed that there was no spe­cial Zi­ka grant and on­ly an $800 grant for par­ents with mi­nors with dis­abil­i­ties.

The fam­i­ly’s lawyers first sued the Health Min­istry last Jan­u­ary, af­ter it failed to dis­close de­tails of its of­fi­cial pol­i­cy for treat­ing the Zi­ka virus and as­so­ci­at­ed com­pli­ca­tions as al­leged­ly promised by Deyals­ingh.

While the fam­i­ly suc­ceed­ed in their ini­tial claim for dis­clo­sure, the min­istry in­formed them that the pol­i­cy was in the draft stage and had not been im­ple­ment­ed.

In ad­di­tion to seek­ing a de­c­la­ra­tion that their le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion was breached by the State’s fail­ure to im­ple­ment a spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy to ad­dress the virus, the fam­i­ly is seek­ing an or­der com­pelling it to im­me­di­ate­ly pro­vide rea­son­able health care to the child.

The fam­i­ly’s lawyers gave the par­ties un­til Jan­u­ary 22 to re­spond to their let­ter af­ter which they will file the law­suit un­less the re­liefs sought are grant­ed.

The T&T Guardian un­der­stands that the fam­i­ly’s le­gal team had not re­ceived a re­sponse, up to late yes­ter­day. Con­tact­ed yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Deyals­ingh de­clined to com­ment on the is­sue.

“I would not com­ment on any le­gal mat­ter,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, the child was di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion, in which the brain does not de­vel­op re­sult­ing in a small­er than nor­mal head when he was born at the Mt Hope Women’s Hos­pi­tal on Feb­ru­ary 3, 2017.

The fam­i­ly’s lawyers claim that since then the child had on­ly re­ceived ba­sic neona­tal and neu­ro­sur­gi­cal care and the fam­i­ly had to foot the bill for pri­vate med­ical tests on the tod­dler’s sight and hear­ing and for phys­io­ther­a­py. They al­so claimed that no coun­selling was pro­vid­ed on the spe­cialised care need­ed for the child through­out his life.

The let­ter in­clud­ed a med­ical re­port from the tod­dler’s pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr De­vanand Lakheer­am, pre­pared in Sep­tem­ber last year, which stat­ed that the child can­not sit or stand with­out full sup­port and has spon­ta­neous and un­co­or­di­nat­ed move­ments of all limbs.

“In sum­ma­ry, (name with­held) is a se­vere­ly af­fect­ed mi­cro­cephal­ic child with sig­nif­i­cant de­lays in his growth and neu­ro­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in all as­pects of gross and fine mo­tor move­ments, lan­guage and so­cial skills and pos­si­ble vi­su­al im­pair­ment,” Lakheer­am said.

The fam­i­ly is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Alvin Ram­roop, Kings­ley Wales­by and Sar­fraz Al­saran.