Families await results of autopsies in birth tragedies
PORT OF SPAIN –– The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has appointed a doctor/lawyer to chair an independent investigative team into three recent deaths of a mother and child during delivery, and the circumstances surrounding the death of a stillbirth.
Doctor/lawyer Dr Albert Persad has been commissioned by the Tobago House of Assembly to assemble a team to investigate the deaths of Leciana Mitchell-Sheppard and her son Ajani Merrie, and the circumstances surrounding the death of Kai Duncan’s stillborn baby.
THA Secretary of Health Claudia Groome-Duke yesterday told the media at a Press conference at Calder Hall, Tobago, that the investigation should begin once the autopsies on the bodies of the Mitchell-Sheppard and Ajani were done since the outcome would be critical to the investigations.
The autopsies were due to be conducted this morning. It was brought forward from Monday at the request of the husband of Mitchell-Sheppard who wanted a pathologist of his choice present.
On the investigations, she said: “We need to have not only information surrounding the unfortunate incidents, but also as important, it must review the systems in place so that improvements, if any, can be made to ensure that incidents like these can be prevented if at all possible, and our people in Tobago should not have this kind of experience.”
The team, she said, would have the experience of a medico-legal expertise, neonatology, obstetrics and gynaecology, midwifery and quality control.
The THA, she said, was awaiting the feedback from Persad, and once the team were assembled, they would be expected to complete their investigations within a two-week time frame.
Asked if she would support a Commission of Enquiry (COE) into the Tobago public health sector, Groome-Duke said that her office had not received any communication from Mitchell Sheppard’s husband Brinsley Sheppard’s lawyers Martin Anthony George & Company on his request to President Anthony Carmona for such an enquiry into the Tobago public health sector and the TRHA.
However, she said: “We are willing to be part of what a COE requires and to treat with that. We would support what requires transparency in this matter because we are all in this, and we need answers for all of our people here in Tobago, and in Trinidad.”
She also said that she had given Sheppard the assurance she would support any measure to investigate his family members’ death, as well as to improve the health system in Tobago.
“The family want answers, the authority wants answers, and the public,” she said, “wants answers. In the end we all will get the answers.”
She noted that Mitchell-Sheppard’s case was traumatic because she had multiple miscarriages early in previous pregnancies, and on this occasion she reached, full term only to lose both her life and her baby’s.