Killer sues for N$3.5m

A convicted murderer serving two life sentences wants damages of N$3.5 million after he went blind, allegedly as a side-effect of TB medication.

07 August 2019 | Justice

A man who is serving two life sentences for killing his son and daughter 10 years ago, is suing the correctional services and the safety ministry for N$3.5 million for the loss of his eyesight.

Jonas Penovanhu Shinana (35) was found guilty in November 2017 of murdering his two children, Matheus Shinana (6) and Emilia Naatye Shinana (4) by slitting their throats just before Christmas in December 2009.

He was convicted of two counts of murder in 2017 and is serving two life sentences.

Shinana, who unsuccessfully tried to kill himself before his arrest, denied guilt during his trial.

He filed his multimillion-dollar lawsuit in March 2017, while his trial was ongoing.

He is asking the court for damages of N$2 million for his blindness, which he blames on negligent medical staff at the Windhoek Central Prison.

He is suing for another N$1 million for loss of amenities in life, N$100 000 for post-traumatic stress and N$400 000 for general damages and wrongful stripping of his dignity.

Shinana claims he went blind because medical staff did not provide him with the necessary urgent care after he reported eye problems in January 2015, after he had been put on TB treatment which allegedly contained an ingredient that harmed his eyesight.



Argued

The defendants have filed papers denying any wrongdoing and claiming Shinana was provided with sufficiently quick medical help.



In an amended plea filed by the safety and security ministry and correctional services, they argue Shinana's blindness “was a gradual process and did not happen in one day or a week”.

They state further that Shinana “was unreasonable in taking too long to register the complaint about his deteriorating eyesight and painful eyes” and that he himself “brought about his own loss of eyesight”.

Shinana argues that the TB medication he was given contained a substance that could, as a side-effect, damage his eyes and that he was never warned about that.

He claims that when he first complained of itchy and sore eyes in January 2015, he was told to “be a little more active, do some exercise”.





He further claims he was later told “there is no sign of eyesight problems and they proceeded to prescribe me Panado pills”.

In March, he was eventually referred to the Windhoek Central Hospital and underwent a scan which indicated abnormal swelling. He claims this condition was traced back to the TB medication he had been taking.

“After numerous follow-ups at the Windhoek Central Hospital, I was informed that I had lost about 80% of my eyesight and I was declared legally blind.”

Shinana claims that the staff at the prison's medical ward “neglected to properly perform their duties” and refer him to an eye specialist when he first complained of problems.

He accuses the staff of having violated his right to human dignity, and says he is finding it hard to adjust to the loss of eyesight and is suffering from depression.



Blind

An expert witness, due to testify on Shinana's behalf, Dr Willie Bruwer, confirms in his witness statement that Ethionamide, as prescribed to Shinana, has the potential to lead to optic neuritis.

Bruwer's statement notes that he was unable to find any evidence that Shinana was advised of the possible side-effects of the medication.

The doctor says it would have been diligent to immediately send the plaintiff for eye tests when he complained of itchiness and reddish eyes.

“It is medically possible that delay may have led to the plaintiff's current condition, as early removal of the causative agent may have stopped the process,” Bruwer notes.

In the amended plea filed by the defendants, they state that Shinana was not diagnosed with TB in August 2014 as he claims, but that his treatment, which ceased in December 2009 when he was arrested, was simply continued. They say his eye damage was not as a consequence of any negligence but that Shinana brought about “his own loss of alleged amenities in that he took too long to register his complaint about his itching eyes and impaired vision”.

Shinana is represented by Taimi Iileka of Sisa Namandje and Co., while Freddy Kadhila was appointed as the government attorney.

The case is being heard by High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele. The matter is set down on the action floating roll for this week.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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