Appellate court reduces damages awarded to victim of botched circumcision

SHOW any man the Bernama story about a botched circumcision and the reaction will be one involving pained expressions and a few choice expletives. For better or worse, for most men, their identity and psychological make-up are intrinsically linked to their manhood.

Hence, it is understandable that many will react in horror at the Bernama report about a botched circumcision procedure that ultimately led to a severed penis head for the victim. Worse yet, after years of litigation, the victim has had to accept reduced damages.

The circumcision took place on Dec 13, 2010, when the plaintiff was just nine years old.

On July 19, 2018, the victim’s mother filed a lawsuit naming the government, Kuala Lipis Hospital’s medical officer and director, and Selayang Hospital’s specialist and director as defendants. It is alleged that the circumcision was not carried out according to the prescribed procedure, which resulted in the entire head of the plaintiff’s penis being severed.

On April 7, 2022, the High Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favour and awarded him damages amounting to RM3.1 mil. The written judgement by Justice Datuk Akhtar Tahir stated that the medical staff’s delay in attending to the plaintiff’s injuries eliminated any hope of saving his private part.

“It is clear that no amount of financial award given by the court will compensate for the loss suffered by the plaintiff,” said Akhtar in June last year. “All the shame and humiliation the plaintiff suffers is a result of this terrible loss.”

“His mother had testified that since the age of 10, the plaintiff has entered into a shell and finds it hard to interact with others, let alone develop the courage to ever marry,” explained the High Court Judge.

The breakdown of the damages granted to the plaintiff is as follows:
– RM108,356 in special damages
– RM2 mil in general damages
– RM500,000 in aggravated damages
– RM500,000 in exemplary damages

The government then filed an appeal against liability and the quantum of damages awarded. In proceedings on Sept 18, the Court of Appeal stated that the RM2 mil in damages was not supported by any documentation.

“Therefore, the general damages of RM2 mil are reduced to RM100,000. The special damages are reduced from RM108,356 to RM23,556.

“The court also sets aside the (aggravated) and exemplary damages amounting to RM1 million awarded by the High Court because these were not stated in the pleadings and there was no basis to allow them.

“However, the cost of RM100,000 awarded by the High Court is upheld,” said Justice Ravinthran Paramaguru, who chaired the panel.

It really is not too much to state that the plaintiff’s quality of life has been irreversibly damaged.

Given his misery since a tender age, the Court of Appeal’s decision does not seem reflective of the victim’s pain, humiliation and suffering. It is understood that the Appellate Court’s decision is based on legal minutiae and technicalities, but shouldn’t it also consider the suffering endured by the plaintiff?

This looks like a case where justice itself seems to have been circumcised. – Sept 21, 2023


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