Coming to the aid of a destitute woman, who was allegedly denied free treatment of total hip replacement surgery by the AIIMS, the Delhi High Court has sought response from the Central government and the premier hospital.
Asha Devi, 35, a resident of Bihar, moved the high court after the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) asked her to deposit in advance Rs.1,27,000 for the treatment.
Justice Manmohan also issued notice to the Bihar government as to why the poor patients were not getting free treatment in Bihar itself and were forced to seek medical help in Delhi.
The court also directed the medical superintendent/director of AIIMS to get Asha Devi examined and file a status report on or before the next date of hearing, February 19.
AIIMS refused to perform a total hip replacement surgery on Asha Devi for Reiter’s Disease, on account of her inability to pay the hefty cost of the surgery, said the plea.
Asha Devi belongs to the lower strata of the society and said the Centre refused to bear the expenses of the treatment required by her, thereby, violating her human and fundamental right to life as guaranteed to her under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for Devi, told the court.
“Every person is entitled to equality before law and equal protection of law. Also, no person can be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Thus, the state is bound to protect life and liberty of every human being,” he further contended.
Asha Devi is an illiterate married woman and her husband is 100 percent hearing-impaired and unemployed. They have four children — three of whom are attending government school in Bihar. Her father-in-law works as an agriculture labourer and earns an average of Rs.5-6 thousand a month. The family has no other source of income, said the plea.
Around six months back, she was advised by a doctor in Bihar to approach AIIMS for treatment.
Accordingly, she approached AIIMS on December 16, 2015, where doctors advised total hip replacement surgery for her.
AIIMS asked her to deposit the hefty amount towards the cost of implants. Thereafter, she made a written representation on January 19 to the hospital and the central government requesting that she be provided totally free treatment as she belongs to the economically-weaker section and lives in abject poverty.
The plea added that she possesses income certificate dated December 19, 2015 from the government of Bihar indicating annual income of Rs.70,000, and National Food Security Card which is issued to a person having less than Rs.1 lakh annual income.
The hospital refused to provide her free treatment saying she should have an income certificate below Rs.4,000 per month income or a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card — Devi does not possess either.
She said her condition was continuing to deteriorate each day and she needed immediate surgery.