Mom sues school after son left in coma

Sasanka was energetic, intelligent and engaged not only in academic work but also in various extra-curricular activities (Shutterstock)

SRI LANKA: A student of Royal College in Colombo 7 and his mother filed two lawsuits in the Colombo District Court against the school’s principal and seven others claiming Rs.260 million as damages after an accident left the Grade 9 student in a vegetative state. Sasanka Jagath Alwis suffered brain injuries on March 2, 2013 after he almost drowned while swimming at the Royal College pool.  He was then 15 years old.

The student and his mother Geetha Chandani had sent a letter of demand to the school principal through Attorney Vishwa de Livera Tennekoon demanding Rs260 million to be paid within two weeks from December 3.

Having received no response from the principal, they registered two civil litigation naming eight people including the Royal College Principal, the Master-in-Charge of Scouting and the swimming instructors as defendants.

Chandani said her husband died in 1999 and that her son Sasanka was also born on the date of her husband’s funeral.
She said her son was energetic, intelligent and engaged not only in academic work but also in various extra-curricular activities.

Chandani said a scouting camp was held within the school premises organised by the School Scout troop on March 2, 2013 and that she had entrusted her son to the care of the Master-in-Charge of Scouting.

The scout camp activities had included several water-related activities at the swimming pool. Sasanka’s mother was informed in the evening that he had nearly drowned in the swimming pool and that he was rushed in a critical condition to the Colombo National Hospital.

The mother complained that the school principal had failed to provide adequate lifesaving equipment or personnel within the premises or vicinity of the swimming pool and that neither were there any life guards on duty under the supervision of the school principal, who is the first defendant. The mother and son maintained that the scant and callous disregard for the safety of students were acts of gross negligence and of negligent omission by the school principal.

She also learnt that her son was not administered adequate first aid nor promptly taken to hospital and that there were no ambulances or medical personnel on standby at the camp in case of any such emergency, nor were there any vehicles to rush her son, who was in a critical condition, to a hospital for urgent medical attention.

The mother said her son was in an unstable and critical condition for more than three months and treated at the National Hospital and thereafter to date was receiving treatment at the Rheumatology and Rehabilitation Hospital in Ragama, but with very little improvement.

She said her son has been in a coma and in a permanent vegetative state from the day of the incident and is being fed a liquid diet through tubes. The mother said her son had been suffering immense pain has lost all hope of a useful life. His life expectancy has diminished significantly and is expected to receive medical assistance throughout his life.

She said she had to spend a large amount of money in caring for the child and would continue to need a more funds for his care in the future.

The mother said it was more than a year since the incident but no action has been taken by the principal or the school to support her and her son in any manner or to provide relief financial or otherwise to ease the huge burden she had to carry because of the injuries suffered by her son. She said that in September 2013, attempts were made by her to seek assistance from the principal but he had refused to discuss the matter any further.

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