Here, in a unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal reversed a decision by the High Court to dismiss a medical negligence claim raised by a woman who underwent a surgical procedure for the removal of her womb and experienced the leaking of urine after the procedure. Appellant had sought damages from medical negligence and lack of proper post-operative care. The Court’s holding clarifies the law on prescription and medical negligence, which are a prominent method through which women try to access the courts when their reproductive health rights are violated.
Women and Justice: Keywords
The claimant underwent an exploratory surgery at age 21 to assess the cause of abdominal pain associated with bleeding. During that surgery the doctor removed her womb and left ovary without her consent or a second opinion. The defendants accepted liability and the court was asked to assess damages for breach of duty and for pain and suffering. Under Belize law, the court must restore the claimant to “the position in which she would have been, had it not been for the negligent act.” The claimant’s psychologist explained the psychological impact on the claimant for her loss of “femaleness” and her struggles with “depression, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.” To quantify her damages, claimant referred the court to awards for infertility in a “woman with severe depression and anxiety” in Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases. The claimant also pointed to a few foreign cases that quantified similar damages. The defense urged the court to be cautious since these cases arose from jurisdictions “which do not share similar social, economic and industrial conditions to Belize.” Defense counsel also attempted to distinguish the physical damage in the cases cited by claimant. The court considered both the fact that claimant’s pecuniary prospects had not changed, as well as her loss of biological motherhood and the psychological damage from loss of her female reproductive organs, and awarded $250,000 in damages.