An NHS dentist has decided to initiate legal action against Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Public Health England over the death, due to Covid-19, of his father who was a community pharmacist.
Dr Minesh Talati’s father Navin Shantilal Talati, 80, died on April 18 at the Royal London Hospital after fighting for his life for nearly a month.
The deceased served as a pharmacist all his working life, after migrating to the UK from the Indian city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 1969.
Following several years of work in an NHS hospital, he opened Talati Chemist in 1977 to serve the local communities of Dagenham in Essex for 36 years. He twice won Essex ‘pharmacist of the year’ title — in 1987 and 1991.
Paying tribute to his father, Dr Talati told the local press: “My father was the most generous and kind-spirited individual. This goes back to the 1970s when he would deliver medicine to the patients that were housebound or open his pharmacy at midnight to dispense emergency medicine.”
Dr Talati, a tooth implant surgeon, claimed he unwittingly infected his parents and pregnant wife, Joanne, as he went by “erroneous” PHE advice.
He said he visited his parents in Goodmayes, North East London in the first week of March,unaware that he had contracted the virus in late February. He started showing symptoms only after two days of the visit, and tests later confirmed the infection.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper he said: “I knew something was wrong. I had a high heart rate, which I thought was strange. I managed to get a private test done which came back positive for Covid-19. I was ultra-worried because I’d seen my parents before I had symptoms. My father had otherwise been isolating because of his age, like I had told him to.”
He added: “Even though he was 80, my dad was very fit.”
At that time, PHE advice had played down warnings of community transmission, alleged Dr Talati.
According to him, the PHE website failed to raise caution even as government’s scientific advisers were aware of coronavirus transmission happening in the country.
Had there been sound warning on transmission, he would not have visited his parents, said Dr Talati.
The basis for his legal action — over death of a loved one due to Covid-19 — was reportedly the first of its kind in the UK.
Dr Talati, who was a Tory candidate from Barking in the 2017 Election, said he was not suing the authorities with any financial motives.
“I want justice,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for ignoring the signs.”
Dr Talati said his father’s death had left him shattered.
“He was not just my father, I’ve lost my best friend, I’ve lost my work colleague,” he said. “The person I went out for a drink with was my father.”
Dr Talati added that timely government action could have prevented many deaths.
“Coronavirus is a disaster that we should have been prepared for,” he wrote on the CrowdJustice website. “If the government had acted earlier in their response to Covid-19, thousands of lives would have been saved.”
“I want accountability”
Dr Talati told The Guardian: “I believe my father’s death, like so many others, didn’t need to happen. I want transparency, clarification of the facts and accountability not just for me, but for the tens of thousands of people who have lost loved ones.”
He accused the the government of “misleading the nation”, and failing to ensure that “citizens had been informed of the true extent of this outbreak”.
He put the blame on Hancock for allegedly not doing what “could be reasonably expected of him to avoid a real and immediate risk to life” from Covid-19.
“I am intending to hold the secretary of state for health and social care to account in the courts and take legal action,” he said.
“This is on the basis that the secretary of state and the executive agency PHE have failed to comply with their duties under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.”
Dr Talati also alleged that the “continued use of airports and the suspension of mass testing in early March” had contributed to the rampant spread of the virus.
He said the legal action was being launched “on behalf of all those who have suffered and lost loved ones” due to the “failures of the government to restrict the spread of coronavirus”.
“I believe that together we can hold the government to account,” said Dr Talati.
Social commentators noted that this suit could spark off a trend of similar legal action against the government.
The Department of Health said: “We cannot comment on ongoing or potential action against the department.”
Dr Talati’s 74-year-old mother and his pregnant wife have both recovered from the disease.
(With input from our sister publication Eastern Eye)