Sun | Dec 10, 2023

Impotency negligence ruling hangs on delay claim, says judge

Published:Wednesday | September 21, 2022 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

A former inmate who suffered a penile disorder which left him impotent while he was in prison in 2006 is to find out today whether the Supreme Court will accept that the Department of Correctional Services had been negligent in getting him immediate medical attention and award him damages.

The State, through its lawyers, has contended that the department acted promptly from the moment it was made aware of Campbell’s condition and, therefore, did not breach its duty of care to the then inmate.

Justice Dale Staple, who presided over the two-day trial, will hand down the ruling.

The claimant, Rupert Campbell, a 54-year-old labourer, had developed an episode of priapism, a prolonged erection not caused by sexual stimulation or interest.

The claimant, who reportedly underwent three surgeries, is claiming that he developed the condition after he was given pills by the prison’s health worker following an epileptic seizure.

The Manchester resident is also claiming negligence after contending that prison officials had ignored repeated requests for a medical examination after he complained about the disorder, which had left him in severe pain. Five days had reportedly passed before he was taken to hospital.

Campbell was convicted of carnal abuse in 2004 and transferred to the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre.

The judge, after hearing closing arguments on Tuesday from both parties, advised Campbell’s lawyer, Ian Davis, that the defence had not presented any evidence to substantiate the claim that pills that were administered to Campbell by the department had thereafter triggered the disorder.

“You are now hanging on by the delay factor,” the judge said further.

Justice Staple said no concrete evidence was presented to show that the department had delayed in attending to Campbell, as no definitive timeline was presented with respect to his complaints.

The medical records which were submitted showed that Campbell was seen on February 16 and 26.

The judge, however, pointed out that there are several other records, including orderly and superintendent documentation, which should have been disclosed by the Crown or requested by the defence.

The claimant, in recounting his story in court on Monday, testified that in February 2006, he had a seizure and was given medication by correctional staff after he was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection on February 16.

After taking the medication, Campbell claimed he developed a persistent and painful erection after first noticing a milder one that lasted for a day on February 21.

He testified that he had complained to the prison orderly and superintendent and made repeated requests to be taken to the hospital but no immediate steps were taken to assist him until February 26.

On that day, the Crown acknowledged that he was taken to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with priapism and referred him to the hospital.

Campbell was taken to the hospital but was transferred to Kingston Public Hospital, where emergency surgery was done. Sometime after the surgery, the claimant said he realised he was impotent.

The claimant was examined in 2015 by urologist Dr William Aiken, who diagnosed him with severe permanent erectile dysfunction.

Aiken, who gave evidence on Tuesday on behalf of the claimant, testified under cross-examination that Campbell had developed ischaemic priapism, which occurs when blood is unable to exit the penis.

According to the doctor, it’s a condition that required urgent medical attention to avoid permanent scarring and erectile dysfunction and that Campbell’s impotence was as a result of him not being given urgent attention.

At the same time, he explained that the condition typically occurs after four hours or more of sustained and prolonged penile erection not associated with sexual stimulation or interest.

Additionally, he said ischaemic priapism could cause permanent scarring and erectile dysfunction after 12 hours or more.

However, he acknowledged that the doctor and staff at the department are not equipped to give definitive medical attention to a case of priapism and in such an instance should refer the matter to a tertiary hospital.

Campbell’s lawyer, Ian Davis, however, sought to find out whether the pills that his client claimed he was given had triggered the condition.

But the judge upheld the Crown’s objection, noting that there was no proof before the court that the claimant had been given any pills and that the doctor, in his report, had not provided any detail about causation.

The lawyer, however, argued that his client may not have developed the condition if he had been given urgent attention, which was an obligation of the Department of Correctional Services.

Meanwhile, government lawyer Matthew Gabaddon reiterated that there was no delay on the part of the department in attending to Campbell.

Furthermore, he said based on Campbell’s timeline, the then inmate had likely suffered severe scarring five days before he reported the incident and that the State should not be held at fault.

Attorney-at-law Karessian Gray also appeared for the attorney general.