A court in Fiji has awarded $458,755 in compensation to a 10-year-old Indo-Fijian boy who had lost his sight after being administered excessive oxygen in an incubator post-birth.
Jashnil Kumar, who was born prematurely on Jan 21, 1996, at a hospital in Lautoka, northwestern Fiji, was kept in an incubator for a week, according to a report in the Fiji Times newspaper.
Kamni Devi, the boy's mother, informed the High Court of Fiji that a specialist had told her that her son's eyes were damaged because he was given excessive oxygen while he was in the incubator at the hospital's maternity ward.
She said that the supplemental oxygen caused the damage called retinopathy of pre-maturity (RoP), which eventually caused permanent blindness to her son.
According to the report, the defendants - Fiji's permanent secretary for health and the attorney-general - had claimed that the blindness was linked to his premature birth and low weight or, in the alternative, he was born with it.
However, two doctors, who testified in court, said that ROP up to stage three could be treated successfully if it was properly managed after initial diagnosis.
They said Jashnil's problem was in stage three and could have been treated by freezing treatment or laser surgery, which was available in Australia and New Zealand, according to the Fiji Times report.
Two specialists who the parents of the boy had consulted told them that they could not do anything as the excessive oxygen had led to permanent blindness.
Visiting offshore doctors said that successful treatment was unlikely.
"The defendants have conveniently lost the medical folder and, thus, could offer no evidence with regards to how they managed and treated baby Jashnil while he was kept in the incubator in the prem nursery and, in particular, how much oxygen was administered to him and whether the same was monitored or not," the report quoted the judge as saying in his judgement.
The judge awarded Jashnil $755 in special damages, $190,000 for general damages, $78,000 for loss of earning capacity, $160,000 for past economic loss (past and future care) and $30,000 for legal costs.