SINGAPORE: An Indonesian maid was on Monday (Mar 6) convicted of ill-treating her employer’s then-four-year-old son, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Kusrini Caslan Arja, 37, left a suction cap - 4cm long and 2cm wide - in the boy’s throat for 12 hours, not daring to tell his parents she had made a mistake.
Kusrini’s job was to look after the bedridden child, now five, who occasionally needed to be resuscitated, and to use a suction machine to clear the boy’s windpipe of phlegm and mucus. She was trained by the boy’s mother, a nurse, to place the suction cap on the child’s nose and lips, and not inside his mouth.
On Nov 23, 2016, the maid noticed that the boy had “more (phlegm and mucus) than usual”, so she opened his mouth and inserted the suction cap, because this way was “more thorough”.
However, the cap became lodged in the boy’s throat and Kusrini used her fingers to try and remove the cap, without success. Becoming desperate, she repeatedly and forcefully inserted her right hand into the victim’s mouth and throat to remove the cap. She tried for eight minutes, but was unsuccessful.
By this time, the boy was bleeding profusely and his face was turning purple from lack of oxygen. Kusrini placed an oxygen mask over the boy’s mouth for about a minute, before she removed it and started “digging” into his mouth and throat to retrieve the cap.
Nearly 10 minutes later, the cap remained lodged in his throat. Kusrini cleaned up the blood around the boy’s mouth and on his clothes, and replaced a blood-soaked towel with a clean one. The boy’s parents, who had seen Kusrini giving the boy oxygen via a CCTV camera installed next to the boy’s bed, called to check whether anything was wrong. Kusrini assured them everything was under control.
The boy’s parents returned home that evening and noticed the suction machine was filled with blood. The boy’s mother, a nurse, opened the child’s mouth and saw the cap in his throat. She removed the cap with a pair of tweezers and called an ambulance and the police.
The cap had been lodged in the boy’s throat for at least 12 hours. He could have choked and died, said a doctor at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
LET'S DISPENSE MERCY: DISTRICT JUDGE
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Teo Lu Jia called for a jail term of 18 months, saying Kusrini’s carelessness had endangered the child’s life. She had “no regard for the victim’s pain and suffering”, DPP Teo said, and had tried to cover up her mistake by cleaning up the blood and refusing to tell her employers.
Kusrini, who was not represented, said she regrets her actions. When CCTV footage was played in court, Kusrini closed her eyes, saying she did not want to watch the video because she felt “ashamed and embarrassed”.
District Judge Low Wee Ping, however, disagreed with the prosecution’s call for an 18-month jail term, calling the term “manifestly excessive” and distinguishing Kusrini’s case from others in which maids intentionally physically abused their employer’s children.
The footage shows she was desperately trying to retrieve the suction cap, Judge Low said, pointing out that Kusrini is not a trained nurse. “I’m sure she didn’t intend to do all those things … I’m sure she’s equally (traumatised),” the judge said, and called for a volunteer lawyer to take on her case. “Let’s do justice, and dispense what we call mercy.”
Lawyer Mahmood Gaznavi has taken on her case.
Judge Low also said “the system (may) be at fault for allowing maids to perform such (medical) work".
“We employ maids too generally … (we) employ them as car washers, plumbers, house painters, medical caregivers … when we shouldn’t be. And when they do something wrong, we point our (fingers) at them.”
Kusrini’s case will next be heard on Mar 23.