iProbono organises first-ever virtual street law workshop on medical negligence in Bangladesh
In February 2021 iProbono (Bangladesh) organised the first ever virtual street law programme on health rights and medical negligence in Bangladesh. 12 law students conducted four sessions on health rights and interconnection with fundamental rights under the Bangladesh Constitution; tort and civil wrong: interconnection with health rights; negligence and medical negligence; and remedies in medical negligence cases. The sessions were conducted in Bangla to ensure easy comprehension for non-law background participants. Around 100 people from different backgrounds and age groups participated in the workshops virtually via zoom meetings. Due to the virtual nature of the programme, students and participants from outside Dhaka could join a street law campaign for the very first time.
Between 2008 and 2016, a total of 517 cases of medical negligence were reported in newspapers according to a publication on medical negligence by Ain O Salish Kendro (ASK). Of those, cases were filed in 36 of these incidents, probe committees set up in only 13 cases, and the accused were arrested in 11 cases, while compensation was provided in just two cases. Such cases invoke tortious liability and tort remedies in the form of compensation are sometimes easier to pursue and more efficient at recognising the right of the complainant.
As the emergency medical facilities system in Bangladesh is seeing a near collapse amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of gross medical negligence have made the headlines yet again. In late April 2021, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in three separate cases- [United Hospital Ltd. vs Niaz Muhammad Mahbob and ors., United Hospital Ltd. vs Md. Alamgir and ors. and United Hospital Ltd. vs Ms. Faowzia Akter and ors.]-, directed the United Hospital to pay Tk. 25 lakh each as initial payment to the families of the four patients killed in a fire at its COVID-19 isolation unit on May 27 last year.
Earlier in 2011 the death of Mridul Kanti Chakrabarty, a Professor in the Department of Music at University of Dhaka, saw outrage, protests, and legal action before it saw justice and it revealed public distrust of the medical community in Bangladesh. He had been suffering from diarrhoea-related dehydration, and despite his critical condition, treatment started after an hour he was taken to the hospital due to delay in admission formalities. Professor Chakrabarty was not given any saline despite repeated requests. The High Court Division of Bangladesh summoned the accused doctor and other staff of Labaid Cardiac Hospital for the alleged negligence in the treatment of Professor Chakrabarty, and awarded a compensation of Tk. 50,00,000.
However, most victims are unable to make an informed choice on suitable legal recourse due to a lack of understanding of the scope of the law of torts. iProbono's street law workshops aimed to address this knowledge gap.
Street law is a legal literacy programme that uses interactive learning methodologies geared towards maximising ordinary people's knowledge.
iProbono's virtual street law started with the submission of lesson plans by the street lawyers in October, 2020. Afterwards, the street lawyers went through a vigorous ToT conducted by experts from the academia and the practice. The first training session on the law of torts in Bangladesh (with special focus on negligence) was taken by Professor Dr. Ridwanul Hoque (Charles Darwin University and University of Dhaka). Sessions on street law methods were conducted by Muhammad Mahdy Hassan (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and Md. Abdur Razzak (Jagannath University).
Following the training, the street lawyers went through multiple demo sessions to practice their deliberation skills under the mentorship of Arpeeta Shams Mizan (University of Dhaka and iProbono), Ali Mashraf (iProbono), Sayeed Sarwar (East West University) and Alida Binte Saqi (University of Asia Pacific). The daylong sessions ran every weekend from October 2020 to February 2021 and involved brainstorming, writing and improvisations.
Thereafter, 12 street lawyers including Md. Azher Mahmud Bhuiyan (University of Dhaka), Abdullah Al Bukhari (University of Dhaka), Devsri Sarkar (University of Dhaka), Maliha Tasnim (University of Dhaka), Mehenaj Binte Amin (Jahangirnagar University), Mashrur Rahman Mahin (Jahangirnagar University), Shanto Deb Roy Arno (Jagannath University), Debjyoti Sarkar (Khulna University), Mashraba Naziat (Bangladesh University of Professionals), Adhora Ema Barua (East West University), Anamika Modok (East West University) and Rabeya Basri (East West University), conducted four virtual street law sessions from the 18th to the 27th of February, 2021. In the Inaugural Session, Mariam Faruqi, South Asia Regional Director, iProbono, remarked, "As the law in these areas is still developing in Bangladesh, the campaign has the potential to contribute to growing the jurisprudence of seeking compensation in medical negligence claims by victims." Also present in the session was Meenakshi Menon, South Asia Program Analyst, iProbono.
The program concluded on the 18th June with the virtual closing and certificate giving ceremony. Ms. Mizan urged the street lawyers to share their knowledge with their community and take up new street law initiatives.
The videos of the virtual street law workshops can be found at https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwLnRRqRqnqS5tt1z6awXKusqlQY4Rgra
Event covered by Azhar Mahmud Bhuiyan, law student at the University of Dhaka and Street Lawyer at iProbono.