Former T&T minister wins lawsuit over husband’s death

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – A private medical institution and a specialist doctor have been ordered to pay over $18 million in compensation to former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira for their alleged negligence leading to her husband’s death after a prostate operation in 2004.

Nunez-Tesheira yesterday won quite possibly the highest ever payout in a medical negligence case in T&T’s history at the conclusion of an over decade-long legal battle with Gulf View Medical Centre and anaesthesiologist Dr Crisen Roopchand.

Although she scored the major legal victory after overcoming numerous hurdles, including the dismissal of the lawsuit at a preliminary stage, Nunez-Tesheira will have to wait some time before she can claim the significant sum, as both the institution and doctor have indicated their intention to appeal.

An emotional Nunez-Tesheira repeatedly broke down in tears, and had to be comforted by her two children, as High Court Judge Vasheist Kokaram read excerpts of his 91-page judgment in a small courtroom at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain.

Former Trinidad and Tobago finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira

Speaking afterwards, Nunez-Tesheira, currently a university lecturer, said her family was happy and relieved to finally get closure in the death of her husband, former Clico insurance executive Russell Tesheira.

“There is just a sense of relief that this has come to an end. Although there is a possibility of an appeal, it is a happy day and I am going to enjoy it,” Nunez-Tesheira said.

In his analysis of the case, Kokaram identified Gulf View and Roopchand’s lawyers’ decision not to adduce their own evidence as a significant reason why their defence failed. He said as a result of the tactical manoeuvre, he was only able to assess the evidence of Nunez-Tesheira’s witnesses in determining the case, as lawyers for Gulf View and Roopchand were unable to discredit them.

“Despite the rigorous cross-examination, their scientific knowledge was not questioned and they have sufficiently set out a reasonable body of medical opinion which suggests on a balance of probability that there was negligence on the part of both Gulf View and Dr Roopchand in the pre-operative and post-operative care of Mr Tesheira,” Kokaram said.

As he left the court, an infuriated Roopchand criticised the judgment, as he suggested Kokaram overstated the effect of the legal decision taken by Gulf View’s renowned British medical negligence lawyer Mary O’Rourke, QC, who opted to make a no-case submission at the end of a week-long trial in December last year.

“Granted we chose to not say anything on the advice of our foreign attorneys, but this judge should seriously take a second look at this case,” Roopchand said in a brief interview before he was led away by his team of local lawyers.

As he spoke generally of the role of negligence lawsuits in ensuring proper medical care for patients, Kokaram acknowledged that doctors were expected to perform “superhuman procedures and miracles” even in risky situations.

“Doctors faced with emergencies ordinarily will try their best to redeem the patient. However, they must, where it is within their power to do so, make reasonable attempts to prevent such emergencies from occurring in the first place,” Kokaram said, as he suggested his judgment should not serve as a mental impediment to doctors when called upon to make “life and death decisions” in the future.

Kokaram also criticised the defendants’ apparent lack of regret as shown by the allegedly “cold and unhelpful responses” Nunez-Tesheira received shortly after her husband’s death.

Nunez-Tesheira was represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Simon de la Bastide and Marcelle Ferdinand. Gulf View’s legal team included Anand Beharrylal and Winston Seenath, while Roger Kawalsingh and Ravi Mungalsingh appeared for Roopchand.

Insurance executive Russell Tesheira died at age 54 after undergoing an operation for transurethral resectioning of the prostate at the Gulf View Medical Centre on April 13, 2004.

During the procedure an instrument is inserted into the patient’s urethra to remove the section of the prostate that is blocking urine flow. Two hours after the procedure, Tesheira was found to be bleeding excessively, prompting doctors to perform a secondary operation and emergency blood transfusion. Tesheira died on the operating table. (Trinidad Guardian)

4 Responses to Former T&T minister wins lawsuit over husband’s death

  1. Elke Hassell
    Elke Hassell March 29, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    That should happen here!!!! So many negligence cases here are falling on deaf ears

  2. Rawle Maycock
    Rawle Maycock March 29, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Why wait until you get that bad to seek medical attention. as men we must go for a test.

  3. Tony Waterman March 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    @Rawle Maycock!!!! you should THINK before you SPEAK, and Don’t ASSUME anything, just deal with what you DO Know.
    These types of Operations are not performed willy nilly. i know because a close friend of mine, had a similar type of Medical Intervention a while ago, these are done ONLY after Consultation/Examinatin by your GP, who then referres you to a SPECIALIST, who would then collabrote with a SURGEON on the decision to do SURGERY, so i cannot understand why YOU would ask this Question. “”Why wait until you get that bad to seek medical attention”” you DONT”T know how long it took from DIAGNOSIS to that Failed Surgery, so why assess blame.
    now please remember it was NOT Prostate Cancer, it was “Urethral stricture” an abnormal narrowing of the tube that carries urine out of the body from the bladder (urethra). and should have been just another normal operation, but it seems to have been Botched, as the Patient had to be taken back to surgery to stop excessive after bleeding and even had to be give a Blood Transfusion. By the was !!! Can you be sure thst this would not have occoured if he had in your assertion. ” wait until you get that bad to seek medical attention”

  4. Tony Waterman March 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    @Elke Hassell !!!!! It CAN Happen There, but there must be enough WILL POWER to bring the ACTION (SUIT) and to see it through, like this Lady did. “”she scored the major legal victory after overcoming numerous hurdles, including the dismissal of the lawsuit at a preliminary stage”” that was the Medical Center and the Doctors CLOSING Ranks. There must also LAWYERS who have the Guts to take on a case like this , which in this case lasted more than a Decade


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