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Hepatitis C infection due to blood transfusion: Court slaps Rs 5 lakh compensation
Punjab: The consumer court in Mansa recently directed Health Department authorities of Punjab to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to a patient, who got infected with Hepatitis C virus due to transfusion of contaminated blood back in 2015. Holding the Health officials guilty, President of the District Consumer Court of Mansa, RL Mittal observed, "For the wrong doings of the staff of OPs,...
Punjab: The consumer court in Mansa recently directed Health Department authorities of Punjab to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to a patient, who got infected with Hepatitis C virus due to transfusion of contaminated blood back in 2015.
Holding the Health officials guilty, President of the District Consumer Court of Mansa, RL Mittal observed, "For the wrong doings of the staff of OPs, now the complainant would have to suffer with this lifelong disease which may require heavy medication and expensive treatment. Therefore, the complainant is surely entitled for an adequate compensation."
The commission had earlier awarded Rs 2,00,000 as compensation. However, when the matter was remanded back by the State Commission, the amount of compensation was increased and the Commission noted, "On 11.12.2020, the present complaint was partly allowed and the OPs were directed to pay compensation of Rs.2,00,000/- to the complainant. Considering the negligence of the OPs which caused irreparable loss to the complainant, this compensation seems to be inadequate. Therefore, the order passed by this forum on 11.12.2020 is modified and the OPs are directed to pay compensation of Rs.5,00,000/- to the complainant."
The case dates back to 2015 when the complainant was suffering from Dengue and he had been admitted to the Civil Hospital Mansa. It was submitted by the complainant that during treatment at the hospital, his TLC/DTC was reported 'decreased' and based on the recommendation of the treating doctor, two blood units 'bearing No.4656 and 4666' from Blood Bank of Civil Hospital, Mansa were transplanted to the complainant on 2.12.2015.
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It was argued on the behalf of the patient that after 3-4 months from the date of discharge from the hospital, he felt difficulties in his health and he again contacted the treating doctor. After conducting necessary tests, the doctor found that the patient was suffering from Hepatitis C, which came as a shock to the complainant and his family.
The patient alleged that when he tried to investigate the origin of the disease, he found out that earlier during his treatment on 02.12.2015, one unit of blood which was transplanted to him by the hospital vide Unit No.4666 was Hepatitis-C positive. He submitted that staff of the hospital carelessly and negligently transplanted the Hepatitis-C infected blood to him but upon noticing their mistake and with a fear of exposure, staff changed the unit No.4666 to Unit No.4661 in their internal documents. Complainant alleged that unit No.4661 was actually transplanted to a patient of another Nursing Home on 16.12.2015. He submitted that one blood unit having the same unit number could not be transplanted to two different persons. Therefore, he alleged that OPs were playing with the health of the public.
It had been further submitted by the complainant that he is under treatment of Hepatitis C which has no permanent cure. He also pointed out that in order to recover from the disease, he would have to continue taking medicines till his last breath and all of this happened due to negligence of the Health Department. Submitting that till now he has already spent more than Rs 10,00,000 for treatment, the patient further stated that despite treatment, his condition was worsening every day.
Further pleading that even though he had requested compensation from the Government, no action had been taken, the complainant further stated that Inquiries had revealed that the Health Department and the Government hospital were negligent in rendering services to the patients.
Filing the complaint, the complainant claimed Rs 19,00,000 for the expenses which he had to spend upon his treatment for Hepatitis-C and for the harassment, physical & mental agony, and sufferings.
Last year the District Consumer Court had disposed of the complaint and had directed the hospital and the health department to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation. However, when the Health Department made an appeal before the State Commission, the matter was remanded back to the District Forum and an opportunity was given to the Opposite parties to argue the case.
In their joint reply, the Hospital, Civil Surgeon and the Chief Secretary of Punjab Health Department submitted that when the patient was admitted to the Civil Hospital, he had been given the best treatment by concerned doctors and he had been discharged after recovery from the disease. They further pointed out that the complainant had only paid the fees fixed by the Government and being a Government institute, the Hospital was not working for profit.
Claiming that there was no mistake on the part of the employees of the government, they argued that it couldn't be established from where and when the complainant got the disease of Hepatitis-C. The complainant can be a patient of Hepatitis C earlier before admission in the Civil Hospital or after discharge from the hospital. The complainant is not entitled to any relief.
The Hospital and Health Department further claimed that the complainant was not transfused any blood unit bearing No. 4666, rather he was given the blood units bearing labels No. 4656 and 4661 and there was no infection of any kind in these issued blood units.
Both the parties had also submitted written arguments and medical literature to support their case.
After perusing all the relevant records the Commission also took note of the hospital's internal documents pertaining to the treatment, which had been obtained by the Complainant under the RTI Act and were produced by the Complainant before the consumer court.
Those documents of "Ward Intake/Output Chart" showed that the label numbers of the blood units which were transfused to the complainant on 02.12.2015 by the staff of the hospital. From that document, it was completely clear that on 02.12.2015, blood vide label No. 4656 and 4666 was transfused to the complainant.
"Hence, the statement of the OPs that the blood bearing label No. 4666 was not transfused to the complainant is a completely false statement," noted the consumer court.
The consumer court further noted that on the basis of the Newspaper reports and complaints, the Deputy Commissioner of Mansa had conducted an investigation under the supervision of the Asst. Commissioner (Public Grievances) Mansa against the alleged delinquent staff & officials of the concerned hospital and the Asst. Commissioner in his investigation report (Ex.C-24, Page-7) had recorded that the complainant was transfused 2 blood units vide Label No. 4656 & 4666 and Blood Unit No. 4666 was HCV+ which caused the disease of Hepatitis-C ("Kala Pelia" in local dialect) to the complainant.
Thus, the Consumer Court concluded, "Hence, from the above observation, it stands proved that the blood transfused on 02.12.2015 to the complainant was HCV(+). Further, the investigation report of Asst. Commissioner shows that the blood was not tested properly before transfusing to the complainant as the necessary Elisa Test which is performed to check the Hepatitis-C Virus infections in the blood was performed on 03.12.201 i.e. after the date of transfusion to the complainant. As such, it can be safely held that OPs have rendered deficient professional services. It was negligence per se, a complete failure of duty of care & caution which caused an incurable disease to the complainant".
"OPs have argued that complainant is not a consumer under the CPA. This argument is devoid of any merit. Complainant had purchased the 2 blood bags from the Blood Bank of Civil Hospital Mansa on payment of Rs. 600/- . Since, OPs received the consideration amount, the complainant is a consumer under the ibid Act," noted the commission.
Further referring to the contention that the complainant was already a patient of Hepatisis before admission to the Civil Hospital, the Commission noted,
"As far as the previous history of the complainant is concerned, the staff of the hospital while examining the complainant on 02.12.2015 (Ex. C-5) had not reported/diagnosed any earlier history of hepatitis with respect to the complainant or his family members. And as far as the question of getting infected from some other source after discharge from the hospital is concerned, then it was upon the OPs to substantiate it by placing on record some cogent evidence, which they haven't. Hence, this objection is also unacceptable."
Apart from this, the Consumer Court also referred to the contention of the Health Department that Hepatisis infection usually occurs within 1 or 2 days of the blood transfusion. At this outset, the Commission the opinions of some leading institutes and noted, "Above reports of WHO and DG, Health Services, India clearly show that Hepatitis-C is a kind of asymptomatic disease, the symptoms of which may occur from 2 weeks to 6 months. Hence, the objection of the OPs that when infected blood is transfused, infection usually occurs within 1 or 2 days is also an out of place objection."
Nullifying all other arguments including the complaint was time barred, the complainant should have approached concerned higher officials for redressal of the grievance, the consumer court noted,
"Other arguments/objections raised by the OPs also do not have any substantive force so as to tilt the preponderance of probabilities in their favour. Nothing of any substantive evidentiary value has been produced on record in support of them, therefore those objections are rejected."
"In view of the observations made above, it stands proved that the complainant was transfused HCV positive blood which caused HepatitisC disease to him. As per the Medical Science, there is no effective vaccine for this disease. Only constant and quality treatment can reduce the viral load to undetectable levels which is considered as cured. For the wrong doings of the staff of OPs, now the complainant would have to suffer with this lifelong disease which may require heavy medication and expensive treatment. Therefore, the complainant is surely entitled for an adequate compensation," observed the Commission.
Therefore the Commission directed the Health Department and the Hospital to pay Rs 5,00,000 as compensation within 45 days of the receipt of the order.
To read the order, click on the link below.
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Barsha completed her MA from the University of Burdwan, West Bengal in 2018. Having a knack for Journalism she joined Medical Dialogues back in 2020. She mainly covers news about medico legal cases, NMC/DCI updates, medical education issues including the latest updates about medical and dental colleges in India. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.