Célia Marina Destri Dos Santos
Fellow Since 1993
This profile was prepared when Célia Marina Destri Dos Santos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1993.
The New Idea
Brazil's inadequate public hospitals and poorly trained doctors have created many malpractice victims with legitimate claims to compensation and desperate needs for representation. To fight for their legal and civil rights, Célia founded the Association for the Victims of Medical Malpractice (AVERMES) and is digging in to win a series of cases that will give these victims real relief. Célia believes that winning a number of malpractice suits will convince lawyers to take an interest in these cases and develop expertise in the field. In Brazil, lawyers can be paid through a contingent fee, a key precondition to representing poor victims. Given that this mechanism is available, Célia believes that a few successes in court will open the field. Medical malpractice often leaves people unable to work and take care of their families. It is important that they know they could be entitled to financial compensation. "No money in the world can pay for the suffering of a victim," Célia says. "However, people have to be aware of their rights." She also hopes that her efforts will indirectly improve Brazil's health care system by making doctors and hospitals accountable for their errors. "For too long, negligence plus imprudence plus incompetence have equaled impunity," Célia says. "AVERMES wants to change the equation to equal justice."