Court allows contempt of court bid by birthing assistant against doctor

KUALA LUMPUR: The Johor Bahru High Court has granted leave to initiate a contempt of court proceedings against a medical doctor who has been ordered to pay RM200,000 in damages in a defamation suit filed by a doula.

Judicial Commissioner Evrol Mariette Peters made the decision after hearing the ex-parte application by 33-year-old Masyitah Md Hassan, who is a pregnancy and birthing assistant or better known as a doula, via Skype on Thursday (Nov 5).

The court also granted RM5,000 in costs.

Lawyer Nur Izzaida Zamani, who represents Masyitah, told the press that her client filed the contempt of court application because Dr Sakinah Sulong, 44, failed to adhere to a court order dated Oct 26.

The court order stated that Dr Sakinah, who is the defendant, must publish a public apology on her Facebook page for six consecutive months within seven days of the court order.

“The deadline for the defendant to make the apology was Nov 2,” Izzaida said when contacted.

The court also allowed Masyitah to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Prof Dr Imelda Balchin Nasruddin, who has been named as a contemnor in the proceedings.

Dr Imelda is a specialist doctor who has her own TV show ‘Tanya Dr Imelda’.

According to a court order sighted by The Star, Dr Imelda was named a contemnor over two comments she made on her Facebook about Dr Sakinah’s case and the court decision.

“All papers in regard to the contempt proceedings will be served to all parties accordingly,” Izzaida added.

On Oct 26, the same High Court allowed Masyitah’s defamation suit against Dr Sakinah and ordered the defendant to publish an unconditional apology.

It made an order of injunction for the defendant to stop publishing defamatory statements involving the death of a baby in Johor Baru on Feb 4, 2018.

Dr Sakinah was ordered to pay RM100,000 in general damages, RM100,000 in exemplary, aggravated and punitive damages and 4% interest a year on the amount from the date of the court order until full settlement.

The court also granted RM30,000 in costs to be paid to the plaintiff.

Masyitah filed the suit through Messrs CK Ling Izzaida & Irna on Aug 10, 2018.

In her statement of claim, Masyitah said the defendant had maliciously uploaded, broadcast and published posts about the plaintiff on the defendant’s Facebook on Feb 7, Feb 8, and Feb 12, 2018.

Masyitah said the defamatory statements on Feb 8, 2018, were “liked” by more than 5,000 individuals on Facebook.

She said the defamatory statements meant to say that the plaintiff was a liar, had influenced mothers to continue with home water births, had killed or caused the death of a baby, had committed a crime, was untrustworthy and unethical, and should be punished with the death sentence.

As a result, she said her character and reputation was damaged by the allegations.

Masyitah, who was heavily pregnant at the material time, suffered depression, emotional and mental stress and postpartum depression after giving birth.

Masyitah said the mother who lost the baby was her friend and not a client.

On Feb 4, 2018, Masyitah said she visited her friend and around 7.50pm, the friend went into labour and she told the husband to call for an ambulance.

She said she had gone to the hospital with the friend and had never influenced her to continue home water birth.

Meanwhile, Dr Sakinah said in her statement of defence that her Facebook posts were an expression of opinion, factual commentary and reasonable comment based on public interest.

She claimed that on Feb 6, 2018, she was informed by a medical officer that a baby had died due to breathing difficulties.

Based on clinic records, Dr Sakinah said, the mother attended antenatal class conducted by a doula who did not have any medical or nursing licence under the Health Ministry.

She said she made comments on the danger and risks of home birth without the supervision of licenced doctors and that she had a moral obligation to spread information and awareness to the public.

The case went on a three-day trial between Aug 9 and Aug 11.

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