Sunday, 15 April 2012

Whose Responsibility? Weakness in coaching education and sports medicine


This question is to the government of Malaysia. It seems to suggest that this issue will continuously happen until serious medical criteria for physical education and sports activity in schools are recognized by the government especially the Ministry of Education. Insurance and maintaining sports equipment is still far not enough. See: Safety Guidelines No. 9/2000 

Previously, the ministry ought to consider a few issues - (1) whether the need to distinguish the border between teaching and coaching in sporting activity. (2) whether teachers are professional and therefore they have a duty to teach or to act with reasonable skill and care. (3) whether their duty not only for the supervision of playing fields but as well as sports equipment and first aids. Why? In principle, if they fail, there is no justification for blanket immunity, and the ministry could be vicariously liable for breaches by those whom it employed. In Loco Parentis applies to all who are in that relationship with school children whether school governance (ministry and education departments), school principal, head of co-curricular activity, teachers (PE teachers), referees and even volunteers. These people are 'in place of parents' and must aware any foreseeable risk of injury. They ought to understand their supervisory responsibility as well as any breach of legal responsibility.  

The position in Malaysia showed different direction.  

(1) Chen Soon Lee v Chong Voon Pin [1966] 2 MLJ 264 - the action against the principal and two teachers for negligence damages (picnic at Tanjung Lobang). Not liable, the defendants had done all safety precautions.

(2) Govt of Malaysia v Jumat Mahmud & Anor [1977] 2 MLJ 103 - duty of care of a teacher in controlling pupils in classroom (action for damages for eyes injury). Not liable, merely accident.

(3) Silvadurai a/l Kunnary v Pengetua Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Chung Hwa Asahan, Muar Johor [1996] MLJ 331 - the action against the headmaster of the school, the Ministry of Education and the Government of Malaysia alleging negligence (see-saw accident at school).

This case is closed related to our latter report. After fall, there was no medical evidence to confirm the pupil had been sent directly to hospital from school. This pupil could have been saved had he been brought to the hospital immediately after he had collapsed. Surely a lot of preliminary diagnose would have had to be taken, like scanning or x-ray. Not Liable, the see-saw was not the cause of fatal injury but a fall on some hard object which was advocated as unconnected with the latter. The student would fall and possibly be injured while playing around.

My suggestion is an action on medical services grounds. A classic case of Welch v Dunsmuir Junior High School (1958) 326 P 2d 633 illustrated that the inadequacies of school medical services resulted in damages award of $325 000. The defendant doctor (although available) fail to respond with sufficient alacrity to examine the pupil or provide proper and immediate medical care. There are many causative factors (other than duty of care and supervision) for child injury that serve as a warning. Examples, poor technique, no warm up, playing when over-tired or ill, inadequate skill and fitness training,  inappropriate protective equipment or even poor shoes.

Now it is time to change the direction.

Read other related cases:
(4) Mohamed Raihan Ibrahim v Govt of Malaysia [1981] 2 MLJ 27 - supervision of teacher who participated in gardening class - liable for negligence.

(5) Zazlin Zahira Kamarulzaman v Louis Marie Neube Rt. Ambrose al J Ambrose [1994] MLJ 35 - supervision during music classes. Not liable. Clear direction to ensure safety.