Was the acquittal of the doctor Elina Sushkevich in the case of the infant’s death overturned?

The First Appeal Court of General Jurisdiction has overturned the conviction of Kaliningrad doctors Elina Sushkevich and Elena Belaya, who were accused of killing a premature baby. Earlier, the jury had acquitted them. “The court overturned the verdict of the Kaliningrad regional court and sent the case for reconsideration,” said Lyubov Budanova, spokeswoman for the court of general jurisdiction, according to RIA Novosti.

In December 2020, based on the verdict of the jury, the Kaliningrad Regional Court acquitted the acting head physician of the Maternity Hospital No. 4 in Kaliningrad, Elena Belaya, and the anesthesiologist-resuscitator of the Regional Perinatal Center, Elina Sushkevich. The judge put the question to the jury: has it been proven that on November 6, 2018, in the maternity ward №4, a newborn was administered 10 ml of the drug “magnesium sulfate” through an umbilical catheter, which resulted in the death of the newborn from poisoning. The jury answered negatively.

Then the Investigative Committee of Russia stated that “emotional assessments have become dominant over legally established facts and expert conclusions. Investigative Committee representative Svetlana Petrenko said that magnesium sulfate was administered to the infant immediately before death, and investigators found that false information about the infant’s stillbirth was included in the birth history. Petrenko insisted that the people responsible for the infant’s death were justified.

Belaya was initially charged over the death of an infant at Maternity Hospital No. 4. She was accused of exceeding her official authority, which had serious consequences. First, she was sent to a pre-trial detention center. After the professional community rallied to her side and the governor of the Kaliningrad region, Anton Alikhanov, intervened in the investigation with a request to mitigate the measure of detention, she was released from the detention center to house arrest.

Elena Belaya was first accused of exceeding official powers, and then – of organizing a murder. In June 2019, the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) opened another criminal case – under the article on the organization of the murder of a minor. At the same time, doctor Sushkevich was arrested. She was also placed under house arrest.

The child, whose death prompted an investigation, was born on November 6, 2018, in the Kaliningrad maternity hospital No. 4. His mother, 27-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan Zamira Ahmedova, gave birth in the sixth month of pregnancy. The baby was born with a weight of 700 grams.

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According to the investigation, the acting chief physician of the Belaya maternity hospital, upon receiving information from the attending physicians about the child’s serious condition, understood that his death would worsen the statistics, which could “negatively affect her further appointment as chief physician.” For this reason, as well as to save resources in the maternity ward, Bela “made the decision to murder the newborn,” according to the investigation.

According to investigators, Bela ordered that the premature baby not be given an expensive medication, and when he died, to forge his documents. “The investigation stated: ‘In order to commit the murder of the minor, Belaya involved Dr. Sushkevich, who arrived as part of the resuscitation team to provide medical assistance to the child and transport him to the perinatal center, with whom she had previously discussed the method of murdering the child.'” According to the Investigative Committee, reanimatologist Sushkevich administered a lethal dose of the drug “magnesium sulfate,” after which the baby died. “In addition, on the instructions of Belaya, false information was entered into the birth record to conceal the murder of the minor, stating that it was a case of intranatal death, i.e. the death of the fetus,” the Investigative Committee said. Sushkevich was eventually charged with murder, and Belaya with his organization.

The criminal case against the doctors has aroused widespread public response. Many representatives of the medical community, as well as parents of children saved by doctors, have expressed their support. The Russian neonatology community, speaking in support of their colleague Sushkevich, stated that the baby was born with “extremely low body weight” in a critical condition and could have died at any moment. The head of the Research Institute of Emergency Pediatric Surgery and Traumatology, Leonid Roshal, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that there could have been “conflicts” in the maternity hospital and that Belaya could have suffered due to competition for the position of chief physician.

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