Medical Negligence 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the refugees > Medical Negligence

This report quotes a transcript from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Lateline. It was broadcast on May 6 2003

Three senior Australian doctors have launched medical negligence complaints against Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) over its treatment of two former detainees in Villawood Detention Centre. The doctors say the two complaints about inadequate medical care are the tip of the iceberg.

The complaint was lodged by "some of Australia's most respected medical practitioners" - Dr Louise Newman, national spokesperson for the Royal Australasian College of Psychiatrists; Dr Michael Dudley, chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia; and Dr Bijou Blick, a paediatric medical officer.

Dr Newman said "there are longstanding concerns about inadequate provision of care, neglect" including "appalling medical treatment."

The first complaint is about a young Thai prostitute and heroin addict Puongtong Simaplee, who allegedly survived sex slavery and child prostitution only to die in Villawood in 2001. The coroner of New South Wales found her treatment was inadequate and inappropriate, she was given the wrong drug for heroin withdrawal, and that  experts believe she may have lived if she'd been taken to hospital.

Dr Dudley said, " She was actually vomiting into a bucket and using the same bucket for toiletries. And it was only when, in fact, she actually missed the bucket on the final occasion that someone went to check it out and found out she was dead." It sounds like "care" was non-existent. 

A young Iranian mother was discovered in Villawood by Drs Newman and Blick with "extreme postnatal depression, dehydration, fever and a severe infection."  She was only able to get to hospital because of their intervention. There were "numerous psychiatric reports" recommending she and the baby be released from detention, including recommendations from the state Child Protection Agency.  Nothing happened until further action by the state public guardian.  Under a government where this sort of thing is happening it is frightening to find the government trying to limit the powers of the Human Rights Commission!

The doctors claim her case is typical of the way expert medical reports are routinely ignored.... They also claim some current detainees are still being denied appropriate medical treatment.

It is this government of whom the Middle East Times reported in 2001 

If he was handcuffed to an armed guard, Iraqi doctor Aamer Sultan might have been permitted to receive his human rights award in Sydney, Australia. But on the day he was awarded the Human Rights Equal Opportunities Australia Highly Commended certificate, Dr. Sultan remained imprisoned behind multiple barbed wire fences in the bleak detention centre of Villawood, tucked away behind an industrial estate on the outskirts of Australia's largest city.

From an Amnesty International submission to the Human Rights Commission:

Dr Aamer Sultan, identified and studied the effects of what he has called immigration detention stress syndrome (IDSS), and is completing research which he will submit to the Medical Journal of Australia. The research details the stages of an illness, which leads to an almost catatonic depressive state, suffered by some detainees (including himself, claims Dr Sultan). Some of these individuals, claim solicitor Jaqueline Everett, are children. The account and the effects of Dr Sultans syndrome on detainees was published in the British Medical magazine, the Lancet in an article co-authored by Australian clinical psychologist Zachary Steele.


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