Patient suffers amputation of both legs leading to permanent disability: Consumer forum directs Rs 10 lakh compensation
New Delhi: Opining that a medical practitioner is expected to take due care and caution while giving treatment as per the established medical jurisprudence avoiding delay, the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has recently awarded a patient with Rs 10 lakh compensation in a case of medical negligence. The president of the Commission Smt. Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal...
New Delhi: Opining that a medical practitioner is expected to take due care and caution while giving treatment as per the established medical jurisprudence avoiding delay, the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has recently awarded a patient with Rs 10 lakh compensation in a case of medical negligence.
The president of the Commission Smt. Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal and Sh. Anil Srivastava (member), in the judgment, dated 26.02.2021, mentioned, "Awarding of cost may serve the purpose of bringing about a qualitative change in the attitude of the hospitals for providing service to human beings as human beings. Human touch is necessary; that is their code of conduct; that is their duty and that is what is required to be implemented more so when personal liberty is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution."
The case concerns a patient who was a former petty officer, who due to an accident on 16.01.2011 approached the emergency ward of the Base Hospital in Delhi for treatment. He submitted before the court that the hospital denied treating him due to the lack of a specialist doctor. The hospital had allegedly provided the patient with first-aid treatment only after repeated requests by the family of the patient.
Later the patient had been referred to another hospital and the first hospital allegedly refused to even provide the patient with an ambulance. The hospital had pointed out that since the patient was a former serviceman, such facilities couldn't be provided to him, the family alleged.
The second hospital after admitting the patient confirmed the requirement of amputation in both the legs and informed the patient's family about the amputation being maximum by one or one and a half inches for artificial limbs.
However, the complainant patient alleged before the Commission that although the necessary two units of blood had been arranged by the patient's family, the doctors belonging to the second hospital proved negligent by not giving treatment in time. In fact, the treatment only started on the next day i.e. 17.01.2011.
Following surgery on the same day, the family of the patient had come to know that doctor had actually amputated the complainant's left leg with around 8 inches and right leg by 11 inches below the knee joint, which was totally contrary to what was informed earlier and the same could have been avoided by providing timely treatment to the complainant.
This resulted in the amputation of the legs of the complainant by more length than it was assured by the doctors earlier. Further, the complainant patient had alleged before the Commission that even though he had been suffering from high fever post-operation, the second hospital discharged the patient on 20.01.2011. This led to inconvenience and unnecessary expenditure on the part of the patient. When he visited the second hospital again, he had been asked to get fresh approval from ECHS Polyclinic, for any further treatment.
Alleging that this whole act resulted in the amputation and permanent disability of the patient, the complaint submitted before the commission that during the follow-up check-up with some other doctors, the complainant came to know that the operation hadn't been performed following the required protocol. An x-ray report supported this as the fibula was found longer than the Tibia of the left leg. As a result, the complainant had to undergo another surgery on 19.07.2012, which cost around Rs. 5,59,000/- causing financial hardship apart from mental agony.
Thus, the Complainant patient approached the Commission with a complaint under Section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and prayed for a compensation of Rs 9,00,000.
On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the treating hospitals contended that the complaint had been hopelessly time-barred. He also contended that the patient had been referred to the second hospital as there had been no treatment available in the first hospital. The second hospital had delayed the operation by one day as the blood sugar level of the patient had been really high. However, the next day, a successful operation had been conducted on the patient.
The treating hospitals had denied all the allegations labelled against them and mentioned that the length of the amputation, as mentioned by the complaint had been completely false and was only a tactic to create pressure.
Before arriving at any judgment, the Commission had discussed the definition of negligence and for this purpose, it referred to several judgments of the Apex Court including Jacob Mathew's case, Bolam versus Friern Hospital Management Committee among others. Mentioning the principles laid down by the Supreme Court the Commission tried to examine whether the doctors had acted as per the standard principles of normal medical parlance.
After examining the facts and arguments of the case, the Commission opined,
"What is expected from the medical practitioner is to take due care and caution while giving treatment as per the established medical jurisprudence avoiding delay. In other words, if he has acted in accordance with the practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical men skilled in that particular art, no question of deficiency would arise."
The Commission noted that the treating hospitals had been "insensitive to the complainant" and it had been certified by another hospital where the Complainant had visited for further treatment.
The Commission also addressed the contention raised by the counsel for the treating hospitals. As per the argument, it had been stated that "there exists no cause of action as against them is devoid of merit as they have failed to properly evaluate the ailment despite undertaking many tests and doing investigations."
Addressing this contention, the Commission observed,
"Their submission that due and proper care was exercised cannot be accepted for their inability to detect the ailment. Timely detection and the treatment could have helped the patient and to the family."
Finally, taking note of several other judgments by the consumer court and Apex Court, the age of the patient, and other necessary and essential factors, the Commission observed,
"that it would be just and reasonable to award compensation of Rs. 10 Lakhs (Rupees Ten Lakhs) with interest at the rate of 3.5% from the date when the cause of action arose and negligence was admittedly done till the realization of the amount, to the complainants for the suffering, mental pain and agony caused."
Giving direction to the treating hospitals to pay the amount within two months of time, the Commission mentioned in its judgment, "Awarding of cost may serve the purpose of bringing about a qualitative change in the attitude of the hospitals for providing service to the human beings as human beings. Human touch is necessary; that is their code of conduct; that is their duty and that is what is required to be implemented more so when personal liberty is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution."
To view the Consumer Court order, click on the link below.
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