Food poisoning ruling shocks family

Hotel staff cleared, but mother and brother vow to continue seeking truth behind what happened to loved one who died on night out

ABU DHABI // The family of a man who died of food poisoning say they are still trying to establish the truth behind his death after an appeal court yesterday cleared two hotel employees of any liability.

Amr al Azhary, 27, died after he and his fiancée dined at Al Fanar restaurant in Le Royal Meridian on May 7 last year.

The Court of Appeal cleared JD, the restaurant’s head chef, and ID, the hotel’s general manager, of negligence leading to death.

The verdict effectively leaves no one responsible for his death after the hospital that treated him was also cleared of liability.

Yesterday his mother, Kouthar al Azhary, said she wanted to hear more expert opinion on how and why her son had died.

“I want three doctors from UAE University to see who is wrong and a forensic doctor from anywhere but Abu Dhabi – like the first court ordered – and I will not question their judgment.

“I lost a lot, this is all I want, please. My son is gone. What about other people’s children? I cannot see from my eyes any more from crying. I don’t want a single dirham, I just want people to admit the doctors were wrong.”

On the night of his death, al Azhary and his fiancée ate seafood and duck liver at the restaurant.

His mother said the first warning signs came when Amr’s fiancée complained her fish tasted strange. The couple then exchanged dishes.

“He thought she was exaggerating, thought maybe she had a cold or was being too picky, so he gave her his food and took hers,” Mrs al Azhary said yesterday.

Within hours of reaching home, symptoms of food poisoning began to show. The following afternoon, a Friday, al Azhary was taken to Al Salama Hospital, where, court documents say, a doctor misdiagnosed him as having a stomach infection and respiratory tract infection.

“The doctor didn’t even do any tests on him, just said it was a cold – his temperature reached 40°C,” his mother said. Al Azhary was then sent home. “The doctor said if he was feverish again, to put his head under cold water.”

By 8pm he described symptoms of paralysis. The family called the hospital to speak to the doctor, who told them to inject him with painkillers. Not knowing how to do so and not finding the drugs they needed at nearby pharmacies, they called the doctor back again.

He told them to place al Azhary’s head under cold water, but the family refused and insisted on taking him to hospital.

Within minutes of reaching the hospital and being placed in a wheelchair, his body broke out in brown spots.

“The doctor was still convinced it was nothing. He explained to us that when a person sits with sick people, people tend to overreact, and then he went home and left Amr alone in hospital.

“The other doctor ... then came and knew it was food poisoning straight away,” said Khalid al Azhary, the victim’s brother. “By then Amr was fighting to breath and was blind, talking to his dad, thinking it was the doctor.”

Another physician then told all family members to leave the room, and that al Azhary had typhoid fever. A few minutes later he informed them he had died.

“From morning until an hour before death, doctors made it seem nothing was wrong,” Khalid al Azhary said.

The Court of Misdemeanours cleared the hotel and the restaurant on December 12 of any liability in al Azhary’s death.

But justices largely agreed with the family in blaming the hospital, saying the doctor had prescribed medication without a proper diagnosis. The justices quoted medical experts who said the man’s life could have been saved if he had been given antibiotics the first time he visited the hospital.

They advised the case be investigated again, but prosecutors insisted the restaurant and hotel were liable.

After consulting foreign doctors, officials from Health Authority-Abu Dhabi also announced that the hospital was at fault.

But the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal yesterday acquitted the hotel and the restaurant – meaning neither the hospital, doctor, restaurant nor hotel was responsible for al Azhary’s death.

However, the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal’s verdict could be appealed at the Court of Cassation.

Khalid al Azhary said: “I will not leave my brother’s blood. It is not about him dying, it is that they did not do something to help him.”

His mother added: “It was like it was yesterday. I still sit here on the couch staring at the door waiting for my beloved Amr to walk in.”