Just minutes before he went into an operating room in Oaxaca on the night of November 26, 2017, three-year-old Edward Luna Trujillo was in good spirits, smiling and laughing in a video filmed by his parents despite having a fractured left arm he sustained in an accident earlier the same day.
Six hours later, he was dead.
What should have been a routine procedure to reset the boy’s fractured bone turned into a nightmare, both for Edward’s parents who lost their first child and the two doctors who treated him, one of whom was held in custody until last night, accused of murder.
At around 10:00pm on the fateful Sunday night, orthopedic surgeon Luis Alberto Pérez Méndez and anesthesiologist Gabriela Cruz López took the boy into the operating room at the Del Valle Hospital in Oaxaca city, advising his parents that the procedure wouldn’t take longer than two hours.
According to a report by the Oaxaca Attorney General’s office (FGE), the doctors then proceeded to administer an excessive dose of the anesthetic lidocaine to their patient, which in the ensuing hours is believed responsible for the complications that led to the boy’s death.
In an attempt to conceal the negligence of which they are accused, the FGE charged — on the basis of video evidence — that Pérez and Cruz later altered Edward’s medical report so that there was no reference to the use of lidocaine.
The FGE report said the cause of Edward’s death was cardiac arrest and that he also suffered cerebral edema caused by a high concentration of lidocaine in his blood.
It also noted that Edward had not fasted prior to the surgery and that during the procedure he was kept lying face upward for a prolonged period, resulting in an accumulation of fluid in his lungs.
Edward died in the intensive care unit of the San Lucas Hospital where he had been transferred in the early hours of November 27 because he had not regained consciousness from the administration of the anesthetic.
The FGE arrested the two doctors on intentional homicide charges earlier this month and Pérez was held in preventative custody in a penitentiary near the state capital.
But the Superior Court of Oaxaca yesterday reclassified the crime to one of negligent homicide, a ruling that allowed Pérez to be released on bail while he awaits trial for the less serious crime.
Cruz previously filed an amparo or injunction that enabled her to avoid preventative detention.
In response to yesterday’s downgrading of the crime, the FGE said it will review its investigation and correct any errors.
The arrest of the two doctors attracted widespread opposition from the medical community, triggering protest marches in 70 locations across Mexico on Sunday, during which health care workers expressed solidarity with Pérez and Cruz and demanded that the former be freed.
More than 500 people, including the deceased boy’s parents, held an opposing march in Oaxaca Monday, demanding justice for Edward’s death.