Court hears how Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients were malnourished

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The Life Esidimeni Inquest in the North Gauteng High Court has heard that psychiatric patients were malnourished and that their weight loss was abnormal.

This is according to physician specialist, professor Gregory Tintinger.

He shed light on the medical cause of deaths of mental health patients, based on postmortem.

The hearing is considering whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mental patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to unregistered NGOs in an apparent attempt to save money in June 2016.

Tintinger testified that the postmortem examination did not suggest the exact cause of deaths.

“When the person has lost 27% of their body weight in just three months that’s very abnormal. We will always try and establish the cause for such a degree of weight [loss].”

“It could include factors such as TB and others. But non of these were found in the autopsy which may lead to consider that there was another possibility such as starvation. There are two criteria that need to be met to consider the possibility of starvation,” explains Tintinger.

Earlier, the court heard that crucial documents meant for the Life Esidimeni patients transfer saga were destroyed in a fire at the Gauteng health department’s offices in 2018.

This is according to mental health care expert, Abel Pienaar, who concluded his testimony at the Life Esidimeni Inquest.

Pienaar previously testified how the transfer process was clearly marred by poor management of their records and that some of the patients had a dual diagnosis of diabetes and a stroke during the transfer period, but such information was not recorded in their transfer files.

Life Esidimeni Inquest I Prof Abel Pienaar cross-examined: