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Conscript Who Died 45 Hours After Being Drafted Fell Victim to Medical Negligence: Legal Expert

Court of General Jurisdiction of Arabkir and Kanaker-Zeytun Administrative Units, presided by Judge Artur Mkrtchyan, heard arguments on Wednesday, April 15, during a trial in a criminal case seeking prosecution for those responsible for the death of Norayr Sahakyan, a conscript who died 45 hours after being drafted into military service on December 21, 2012.

Based on the findings of a forensic medical examination, Sahakyan's death was caused by negligent medical treatment, legal expert Gagik Harutyunyan said during the court hearing on Wednesday. 

Norayr Sahakyan's mother, Karine Mnatsakanyan, told earlier that her son had gotten a fever at the central assembly point 2 hours after receiving an injection. Still, the administrators at the assembly point sent Sahakyan on his way to Nagorno-Karabakh, where the conscript died.

The defendants in the criminal prosecution are Karen Julhakyan, assembly point chief physician who performed the injection which caused allergic reaction in the young conscript; subaltern officer Varuzhan Manasyan who was responsible for Norayr Sahakyan's transfer to Nagorno-Karabakh; Arkadi Chakhoyan, on-call physician at the Khojalu hospital; Department of Infection Head Mher Davidyants who admitted the patient. Davidyants has also been accused of providing false testimony. He had said during the preliminary investigation that he was with the patient on the night of the death starting 12:40 AM helping him, however, as stated by the chief investigator in the case, the investigation found that the physician arrived at the hospital only after 2:30 AM. 

The M.D. at the assembly point had to refer Norayr Sahakyan for an X-ray examination after the young man showed signs of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, expert Gagik Harutyunyan said. 

“Do not think that allergies happen only in the form of some skin rash; they have an impact on tissues throughout the body. The boy's temperature reached 39.6 degrees. Environment enabling a rapid development of pneumonia was created. I am 100% sure that if they had listened to his lungs, they would have heard rattling,” the expert said. 

Accused Julhakyan countered, claiming he had listened to Sahakyan's lungs and saw no need for an X-ray since there was no wheezing in his chest. Gagik Harutyunyan confirmed that the conscript had no signs of pneumonia while at the assembly point.

Accused Chakhoyan's lawyer Gegham Hakobyan stated that the issue is the origin of the vaccine used on the conscripts: “Why then was it replaced after this incident?” the lawyer asked. 

Presiding Judge Artur Mkrtchyan, however, urged not to deviate from the case at hand.

Norayr Sahakyan's father, Nver Sahakyan, who was present in court yesterday, said in an interview with Epress.am that his son had always been healthy, and practiced boxing for years.

“His temperature went up after the injection. I don't know why, but a gynecologist was on-call that night. He gave my son a tablet of paracetamol to reduce the fever; and in this state my child was sent to Karabakh. His fever worsened on the way. The officer – a lieutenant colonel – who was with Norayr in the car asked what he could do to help him. My son asked to be sent back to Yerevan, however, the officer said he had no such authority. He sent Norayr to a hospital in Khojalu. When we spoke to him on the phone, Norayr said that there was only a nurse present at the hospital. My son was unlucky; it was a Saturday,” the father said. 

The next court hearing is scheduled for April 27.