Kate Clayton's death: What happened at the public hospital?

“The deceased Kate Laura Louise Clayton … was treated at the Cayman Islands Hospital … and in the course of treatment had a failed tracheostomy procedure where the procedure and its management prevented oxygen reaching Miss Clayton’s brain for a period of at least eight minutes resulting in hypoxic brain injury.
“Miss Clayton’s subsequent death … was as a direct result of the failed tracheostomy …”
— U.K. coroner Sarah Whitby

“Neither the authority, nor any director or employee of the Authority, nor any Committee member, shall be liable in damages for anything done or omitted in the discharge of their respective functions or duties unless it is shown that the act or omission was in bad faith.”
— Cayman Islands Health Services Law, Section 12

“We are not aware of any other jurisdictions that precludes claims in this way. Certainly, the most developed countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., allow claims for negligence.”
— James Kennedy, partner, Samson and McGrath Attorneys-at-Law

“Nothing can bring her back, but if there is something that can be done that prevents another family going through what we have been through, then we welcome that.”
— Kate’s mother, Jo Clayton

“Due to reasons of privacy and patient confidentiality we are unable to comment on this story.”
Lizzette Yearwood, CEO, Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, March 23

“The Cayman Islands Health Services Authority has repeatedly declined to discuss specific details of Kate Clayton’s case, citing patient confidentiality requirements.”
— Cayman Compass, Sept. 21

It is a pernicious system that reigns within the corridors of Grand Cayman’s public hospital.

Even if it is demonstrated that the actions, or failures, by Health Services Authority personnel directly caused the death of a patient, the law shields the agency and its civil servants from legal consequences, in ironclad language akin to the statute granting our legislators “parliamentary privilege” on the floor of the Legislative Assembly.

It is perhaps surprising that Cayman’s hospital officials feel comfortable in issuing “no comments,” citing, of all things, the confidentiality of the patient … who has died and whose family is still seeking answers.

Now, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has taken the unusual step of launching an investigation into “the circumstances surrounding [Kate Clayton’s] death,” which, in the broad dialect of law enforcement, may include any number of possibilities.

Confronted with external scrutiny, the natural response of any bureaucratic organization is to circle the proverbial wagons, to deny, deflect and, if the opportunity presents itself, make a scapegoat of an ancillary individual.

This must not be allowed to happen.

It should be clear to everyone who is not a member of the public health apparatus (and probably to many who happen to be) that, in a situation such as that of the late Miss Clayton, two things are absolutely necessary:

1. Transparency as to what exactly took place at George Town’s government hospital

2. Recourse on the part of Miss Clayton’s family, if they believe fault to be found, to pursue damages in court.

If this requires a change in the HSA administration or the legislation governing our Health Services Authority, then so be it.


  1. The law does seem to allow for some liability where it can be…… "shown that the act or omission was in bad faith." I would think that this is standard practice. In fact, has anyone seen the types of documents/contracts that you have to sign at a U.S. hospital before a family member can undergo a surgical procedure? My read of some of those documents/contracts clearly indicate to me that the hospital and doctor’s are essentially not liable for anything that might or might not happen during any procedure or at any point during your stay at the hospital. If you can get you hands on any of the documents/contracts that you have to sign at U.S. hospitals please do so and let me have your feedback.

    Let’s hope for the sake of Miss Clayton’s family that it does not take so long for this matter to be dealt with that it becomes necessary to declare that it is not not in the public interest to move forward with the process.

  2. Mack, that’s clearly not the case with US hospitals. They have one of the most litigious environments in the world and every doctor is scared to death of being sued for something going wrong, even if it wasn’t his fault.

    As to the clause of acting in bad faith, this would seem to apply only if you intentionally did something wrong, but would shield you if you are in fact a terrible doctor and killed someone without meaning to. That would never fly in the US or UK. Bad doctors must be held accountable or they will never be flushed out of the system.

  3. Well she is British and the head of Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is British and they the Brits take the lives of their citizens serious. Something we Caymanians need to learn from.

  4. Can Rod Bodden explain what the nationality of the deceased and the RCIP Commissioner have to do with this situation?.There has been a plethora of Brit bashing comments in the press lately, and I suggest if these grudge bearing Caymanians have such a problem with the mother country, they hand their British passports back.

  5. Mr. roger davies,The care that Brits have for their citizens that means a lot to me and i think you need to look into yourself. We are in Cayman as far as i know or is it South Africa before the world found their senses,It’s like only some people can preach their ideology here but those that think this island is a nice place to live is look down on. I have four nationalities and i am speaking from all four of them. I respect when a country thinks highly of their citizen and does everything they can for them and if i am wrong for that then i am sorry but it is a lesson to take note and learn from. The value of citizenship.

  6. Well Mr Bodden, it seems you prefer British citizenship over Caymanian. I have only one citizenship and I am perfectly happy with that, I certainly don’t need four.

  7. I hope they will also investigate the removal of Miss Clayton from the CI Hospital and its possible effects;remember she did not die in Cayman but in the UK.If the Compass feels strongly that money for damages should be paid,perhaps they can take it on themselves to do so.

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