Doctor calls for laws to ban release of children against medical advice


The Head of Paediatric Ward Papalii Dr Tito Kamu is calling for laws to protect children being released from the hospital against medical advice while parents opt for traditional medicine.

The call by Papalli follows the recent death of a four-year-old baby who had severe asthma last month and died after being released from the hospital.

In an interview with Radio Polynesia, Papalii hopes the current Administration will consider his plea for the sake of the children. 

“We have seen this over the years but legally the parents have the last say, as we don’t have laws in place that make it legal for families to release their children from the hospital, despite medical advice from the doctors.”

The Medical doctor made it clear there is no intention of disrespecting the traditional healers.

According to Papalii adults have the right to refuse medical care that is their prerogative. “However this legal right to refuse medical care should not be extended to their children if it endangers the child’s welfare.

“Children are entitled to protection and appropriate medical treatment despite their parents’ views, but in Samoa there are no such laws. “Unlike other Pacific countries, children have these rights afforded to them under the law to get the medical care they need.”

Papali’i who has been a Doctor for over 22 years said the measles epidemic took the lives of many children partly due to parents “signing to release their child” from medical care and taking their children to seek traditional fofo or samoan fofo. “And they end up bringing their babies back to the hospital and by the time they are back it is too late.

“At the time, under the previous Administration when the State of Emergency was declared, it allowed for laws to prohibit parents from taking the children out of the hospital, but this was temporary. 

“This helped and allowed for babies to get the medical care required and at the same time decreased the number of babies dying during the measles,” said Papali’i.

In 2019 the measles outbreak began in September and within five months, over 5,700 cases of measles were recorded with 83 deaths mostly children.

Papalii told Radio Polynesia the Government should consider laws to protect minors.

“There are laws against parents who are reckless and in doing so endangers the life of their child, they can be charged criminally. But that is after the fact. Parents panic when it comes to their children, I am a parent and grandparent, and I understand wholeheartedly feeling helpless when your child is sick. When parents panic this creates doubts. 

But what I’m advocating for is the chance afforded to the child to get the medical care they need to keep them alive.”