Doctor warned to comply with Coroner’s orders


District Court Judge and Coroner, Alalatoa Rosella Papapli’i has warned Dr. Papalii Tito Kamu and also put the Medical Profession on notice; noncompliance with orders of the Coroner will result in contempt of Court.

The warning is outlined in an interim order, dated 25 March concerning the death of a four-month-old baby that passed away earlier this month.

The infant was discharged from the hospital the next day the baby died and when the family was on their way to bury the infant, Police intercepted the body and returned the baby to the mortuary.

A police investigation was launched immediately.

In turn, the Coroner ordered a full medical report from Dr. Kamu, to be submitted and it must include whether the baby’s death was covid related.

However, upon receiving the medical report from the Doctor, the Judge issued an interim order warning Dr. Kamu and put the medical profession on notice.

The Judge pointed out the baby’s condition was clinically deteriorated in the midst covid outbreak in the community, hence the order to submit “a full medical report canvassing the symptoms of the deceased, medication and treatment administered during the time of admission, and why the infant was released given the high risks and whether covid tests were undertaken on the infant.”

The Judge cited that the medical report outlined a general complaint against the “Police regarding discharging their duties and how information should be accurately relayed to the Coroner”.

Dr. Kamu in his complaint went on to say “this is why there are too many unnecessary dead bodies inside the hospital mortuary; the cause of death is unknown and Police interfere and intervene with their diagnostic and decisions.”

Radio Polynesia reached out to Dr. Kamu via phone and email for comments but there has been no response.

The Judge also issued a directive against Dr. Kamu and the medical profession as a whole, that when an order is made by the Coroner it is made independently in line with statutory functions and the role of the Coroner under the Coroner’s Act 2017.

“So when an order is made to whoever including doctors or members of the medical profession, nurses regardless of their rank, Police and others, it must be complied with, within a timely manner”.

[And] “that failure to do so is an offense, which carries a jail term of up to six months in jail and or a fine of $1,000.”

In addition, it also attracts the law of contempt of court.

The Judge then pointed to Dr. Kamu’s complaint against Police as “unwarranted and unfounded.

“To include such a complaint which seemed to have the Senior ranking officers of the Ministry of Police as its intended forum, in the medical report sanctioned by the Coroner” in her view is “unethical and unprofessional and therefore unacceptable,” said the Judge.

Furthermore, she pointed out it’s plausible, that Dr. Kamu’s complaint against the Police, is “interfering with the lawful execution of the duties and function of the Coroner and equally Police”.”

The Judge said this will not be tolerated by the Court.

Furthermore, the Judge noted that observations on the capacity holding of the mortuary and the fact there is no pathologist on the island to perform post mortem is “utterly out of line” and not his call to make.

The Judge concluded by warning Dr. Kamu, that his medical report will be investigated and scrutinized in full at the inquest hearing, in which he will be called to give evidence.

Her honors did not order a post mortem, given the circumstances and the lack of pathologists on the island for over eight months.

She said, if the death is likely to be covid related, a post mortem cannot be ordered at this stage given the observation of the Chinese team of pathologists who conducted the post-mortems in 2021 on the condition of the operating room and health and safety concerns.

The Judge, ordered to release of the body of the infant to his parent and scheduled the Inquest hearing for 20 July 2022.

The Judge also acknowledged the hard work of the medical profession and the Police during these “challenging and trying times”.

“It is an understatement to say that these are challenging and trying times, requiring the key triage arms of the Coroner’s Court (Police, medical professional, and family of deceased) to stand together in unison. “The medical profession and equally the Police force, are without doubt working tirelessly under tremendous stressful circumstances and it does not go unnoticed.

“The Coroner and all those involved in its work are fully appreciative of your admirable and loyal service to our people. We continue to pray for each other and our country.”

A copy of the interim order was sent to Deputy Director-General, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomes, Dr. Kamu, and Acting Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Keti.