Patient Dies due to PROM post labour: Consumer Commission Directs Doctor, Hospital to Cough up Rs 10 Lakh compensation
Ahmedabad: The Gujarat State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission recently directed a doctor and a Surat-based hospital to pay Rs 10 lakhs to the family of a patient, who had died after delivering a newborn baby.
Such a direction came from the District Consumer Court after it took note of the fact that the patient had walked into the labour room in a healthy condition and her condition had become critical inside the labour room.
Applying the principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur, the Commission noted, "Opponent Doctor only in knowledge that what was happened in Labour Room but opponent Doctor has not produced any evidence to prove that he was not negligent in this case and also this vital facts which was in his personnel knowledge not disclosed by the opponent Doctor and hence this Commission justify in applying the principle of Res Ipsa loquitur to draw inference as to probable existence of facts."
The case goes back to 2006 when the wife of the complainant was taken to the treating hospital due to sudden labour pain. It has been stated by the complainant that when they reached the hospital, no doctor was available and therefore nurses examined the patient and informed the doctor about the condition of the patient on telephone. Relying on the examination made by the nurses, the treating doctor allegedly advised for the admission of the patient and thereafter the nurse had administered some injection.
The next morning the patient was asked to be taken to the labour room and within a few minutes the relatives were informed that the condition of the patient had become serious and she required immediate hospitalization. In the meantime, a male baby was born and was kept in NICU.
Consequently, the patient was taken to the Intensive care unit of another hospital but till then her condition had deteriorated so much that despite all her efforts the patient had died.
Aggrieved, the complainant had sued the treating doctor alleging gross medical negligence and deficiency in service before the District Consumer Court of Surat, which had dismissed the complaint.
Thereafter, challenging the order of the District Commission, the complainant approached the Gujarat State Commission arguing that the District Consumer Court had erred in holding that the complainants have failed to discharge the burden of proof of negligence.
The counsel for the complainant further argued that the District Commission had erred in not appreciating the fact that the treating doctor has not placed on record indoor case papers of hospital record which is most important documents and the reason behind suppression of this vital document is unexplained.
On the other hand, the counsel for the doctor and hospital argued that the post mortem report, which is a vital document, had not been placed on record and further pointed out that there was no nexus between the cause of death and the treatment given to the patient and that is why there can be no medical negligence attributed to the doctor.
He pointed out that the patient's condition was deteriorating rapidly and she ultimately died due to Amniotic Fluting Linking which mean as PROM (Pre Mature of Memorial) in medical term but the life of child was saved.
The State Consumer Court also took note of the submission made by the doctor, who claimed that he had taken utmost care of the deceased patient and there was no negligence or carelessness committed by him.
After listening to the contentions, the State Commission referred to the interrogatories, wherein the statements made by the doctor were contradictory. "Above contradictory statements prove that opponent Doctor who was having personnel knowledge of this case has not disclosed correct facts," noted the Commission.
The Consumer Court further observed that "in the reply of interrogatories opponent Doctor stated that he show the patient at about 3:00AM and after that he checked her time to time but case papers did not corroborate his case and there are no entries in case papers that patient was examined by opponent doctor time to time."
"In the opinion of this Commission Doctor could have produced affidavit of nurse like woman of his hospital to prove that he was present in hospital when patient was admitted but the affidavit of nurse like woman who has attended the deceased is not produced in this case which clearly establish that opponent doctor has not taken any steps to prove that he was present in the hospital while the deceased was brought to the hospital," further opined the Commission.
Taking note of the case papers of the second hospital the Commission noted that the documents showed that the patient had symptoms of cyanosis and she was put on Oxygen immediately.
At this outset, the Commission also referred to the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Smt. Savita Garg vs. The Director, National Heart Institute, and noted that in the same line, in the present case as well the burden of proof lies on the treating doctor to prove that there was no negligence or deficiency on his part.
Referring to the fact that the patient walked into the labour room and she was healthy beforehand, the Commission further observed,
"Opponent Doctor only in knowledge that what was happened in Labour Room but opponent Doctor has not produced any evidence to prove that he was not negligent in this case and also this vital facts which was in his personnel knowledge not disclosed by the opponent Doctor and hence this Commission justify in applying the principle of Res Ipsa loquitur to draw inference as to probable existence of facts."
Holding the doctor guilty of medical negligence, the Commission noted,
"In the instant case also when patient was healthy before entering in Labour Room and her condition became critical inside the Labour Room then opponent Doctor only knows that what happened in Labour Room but though he has not produced any evidence to prove that he was not negligent and therefore in the opinion of this Commission opponent Doctor is liable for the critical condition of the patient and it is the gross medical negligence on the part of the opponent Doctor."
Observing that the "loss of human life in younger age can never be measured in terms of loss in earning or monetary loss alone", the Commission opined, "The emotional attachments involved to the loss of wife/mother can have a devastating effect on the family which needs to be visualized."
Considering the fact that the deceased patient had left behind her 3 minor children with newly born baby and her husband as well, the Commission set aside the order of the District Commission and directed the treating doctor and hospital to pay Rs 10 lakhs rupees to the complainants along with interest at the rate of 6% from the date of filing of the compliant till its realization.
Further, they were directed by the Commission to pay another Rs 10,000 as the cost of complaints.
To read the case order, click on the link below.