Russia’s investigative committee has brought charges against a doctor whose alleged negligence caused a high-profile death in prison.
Fifty-three-year-old Vera Trifonova, head of a real estate agency, was arrested on fraud charges in December 2010. Despite having serious health problems, she was put into a pre-trial detention center. In April 2010 she died in custody.
The investigators say that a specialist from an independent medical center, Aleksandra Artamonova, forgot to remove a catheter from Trifonova’s vein, which caused a clot and led to the patient’s death. Should her guilt be proven, Artamonova could face three years in prison. An employee of the medical center told journalists that Artamonova had already lost her job.
Meanwhile, Trifonova’s family and lawyers say that the investigators are attempting to shift responsibility for the fatality.
“They are cynically hushing up the case,” said Vera Trifonova’s son, Vyacheslav Raikov. “To protect their colleagues, they are ready to blame the death on anybody, even independent doctors.”
A medical examination, Raikov said, had confirmed that Trifonova’s death was caused by the pre-detention facility’s failure to take care of the patient rather than through any fault of the doctor’s.
Lawyers point out that, during the detention, Trifonova was repeatedly sent to hospital, but whenever her condition improved, she was returned to detention.
The detention center’s management filed several official requests to the investigator asking him to release Trifonova on bail so she could receive proper medical assistance while awaiting trial. By that time, the suspect was already blind and could only be transported in a wheelchair; her lungs had filled with fluid. The investigator, however, ignored the requests.
Back in May 2010, Trifonova’s death caused a shake-up in Russia’s legal system. President Medvedev ordered Russia’s Prosecutor General to closely look into the case. As a result, the investigator leading the case against was charged with negligence, while several senior officials connected to the case have been fired. The judge responsible for Vera Trifonova’s arrest faced removal.
Trifonova’s story was not the first such one in Russian legal practice. In November 2009, Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer working for a foreign investment fund, also died in pre-trial detention. Despite the fact that doctors confirmed that Magnitsky was seriously ill, authorities failed to provide proper medical assistance. Sergey Magnitsky made several official complaints on the conditions he was kept in, but these cries for help went unanswered.