The arrest of two doctors in connection with the death of a three-year-old boy in Oaxaca last year have attracted widespread opposition from the medical community — and support from the boy’s family.
On November 26, Dr. Luis Alberto Pérez Méndez and anesthesiologist Gabriela Cruz López operated on Edward Luna Trujillo at a private health clinic in the state capital, where his parents had taken him for treatment of a fractured arm.
But according to state authorities, the doctors administered such high doses of anesthetic that he died shortly after his parents transferred him to another, better-equipped facility because he failed to wake up after surgery.
Pérez and Cruz were both arrested earlier this month for medical negligence and are awaiting trial on intentional homicide charges. The former remains in custody while the latter filed an injunction to avoid preventative detention.
Authorities charge that the doctors failed to report the use of high levels of lidocaine on the boy. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for eight to 20 years.
On Sunday, health workers in 70 cities and municipalities across the country held simultaneous protest marches to demand the immediate release of Pérez and to express their solidarity with both doctors.
In Mexico City, around 200 workers marched from the capital’s Angel of Independence monument to its main square for a rally.
In Veracruz, doctors from both public and private hospitals chanted “we are all Luis” and “no to the criminalization of the medical act” as they marched.
Veracruz Dr. Hugo Enrique Hernández Azamar told the newspaper Milenio that a doctor never attends to a patient with the intention of causing harm. Protesting health care workers believe that the doctor’s imprisonment represents a grave injustice and a threat to the medical profession.
Marches were also held in Tijuana, Monterrey, Chihuahua, Chilpancingo, Acapulco, Oaxaca and the state of México among other locations. An online movement expressing solidarity with the two doctors and demanding Pérez’s release has also sprung up and attracted significant support.
But the boy’s family feels otherwise.
In response to Sunday’s protests, more than 500 people, including the boy’s parents, held an opposing march in Oaxaca yesterday during which they demanded justice for the boy’s death and opposed the call for Pérez to be released.
Their aim, they said, was to defend patients’ rights in the face of medical negligence.
The boy’s mother told Milenio that the march wasn’t against doctors or designed to pressure authorities but to demand justice “so that other people don’t suffer what has happened to us.”
Daniela Trujillo added that she wanted authorities “to take a decision according to the law.”
In a letter written from his Oaxaca prison cell, Pérez defended himself and argued that the state’s case against him is unjust.
“. . . They say that I killed one of my patients on purpose, that I killed him with malice. I remember him very well, I think of him every day . . .” he said.
He added later in the letter, “I don’t understand anything about laws, I don’t know what to do. The only thing that I know how to do is to be a doctor.”
“The family say that I will go to hell, it’s not true, this is my hell . . . my dear God, society wants to crucify me, why have you abandoned me? All I wanted was to be the best doctor in the world.”