Three midwives were sentenced by a Senegalese court on Wednesday, May 11, to a suspended six-month prison sentence for “failure to assist a person in danger”, after the death in a public hospital of a pregnant woman who had waited in vain in very great suffering a caesarean section and whose tragic fate shook the country. Three other midwives, also tried by this court in Louga (north), were acquitted. This tragedy had aroused a wave of indignation on social networks against the shortcomings of the public health system in Senegal and had provoked reactions at the highest level of the State.
According to local press, Astou Sokhna, married and 9 months pregnant, died in Louga hospital on April 1 after what journalists described as long agony and denial of care. The young woman, who was 34 years old according to a lawyer for the civil party, had waited for about twenty hours for the cesarean she was asking for. Staff reportedly refused her request, arguing that her surgery was unplanned, and threatened to kick her out if she insisted.
On Wednesday morning, the judgment was pronounced in the presence of the six defendants and many health workers came to support their colleagues who were being prosecuted, AFP journalists noted. The three convicted women were on duty the night Astou Sokhna was admitted to hospital, said one of their lawyers, Abou Abdou Daff. The other three were on duty during the day. During the trial, on April 27, the prosecution had requested one year in prison, including one month, against four of the six defendants, and release for the other two.
“We do not contest, although our hearts are broken, but we seriously expect another [judgment],” said Ms. Sokhna’s husband, Modou Mboup, present in the courtroom at the time of the verdict: “Personally, I’ll stop there. The lawyers [for the civil party] will see if they will continue the procedure. »
Infant found alive in morgue
“We have highlighted what all Senegalese deplore in hospitals. It’s a victory. If we stand idly by, there could be other Astou Sokhnas,” Mboup added, referring to accusations of “negligence” aimed at medical personnel in Senegal. He said his late wife “kept her appointments, the ultrasound, the scans.” The night of the tragedy, “I brought her at 9:30 a.m. to the hospital”, he testified: “Apart from the infusion, I did not see that she had been administered anything else until when he died, at 5 a.m. If they [the midwives] had done what they had to do, maybe it wouldn’t have happened like this. »
A civil party lawyer, Ameth Moussa Sall, told AFP that he was not “disappointed”. “The objective of the civil party was not to have a prison sentence. What we wanted, and the court went with us, was a conviction. He said he had filed a new complaint on Wednesday against the six midwives, a gynecologist at Louga hospital and the management of the establishment, as well as the State of Senegal, for “homicide and forgery and use of forgery “.
Faced with the outcry caused by the death of Ms. Sokhna, President Macky Sall had issued a message of condolence and instructed to determine the responsibilities. The Minister of Health, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, acknowledged on April 14 that with more vigilance, the death of this woman could have been avoided. The director of the hospital has since been removed and replaced.
Another case in a public hospital caused a scandal recently. In Kaolack (center), an infant declared dead by a nurse on Friday May 6, then deposited in the morgue, was then found alive by his father a few minutes later, before finally dying during the day, according to the local press. The prosecution announced on Sunday that it had opened an investigation. The nurse was referred to the prosecution on Wednesday after four days in police custody.