In what can be termed as the highest compensation so far in the country, Supreme Court of India, ordered the State Government of Tamil Nadu to pay a sum of Rs 1.8 cr to an 18-year-old girl who lost her vision at birth due to medical negligence at a government-run hospital. The figure was arrived after the bench of justices J S Khehar and S A Bobde considered inflation and escalating cost of treatment required by her in future
Earlier, based on the report by a medical team from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) had agreed on the case of medical negligence granted a compensation of Rs 5 lakh in 2009 to the girl’s parents, which has still not been paid by the state government.
The case is of a girl that was born prematurely in the 29th month of pregnancy in the year 1996. The baby weighed only 1250 grams at birth and was placed in an incubator in intensive care unit for about 25 days. The baby was administered 90-100% oxygen at the time of birth and underwent blood exchange transfusion a week after birth. The baby and the mother came for a follow-up at the chronological age of 9 weeks. While the doctor involved advised isolation for the baby to protect it from infection, the phenomenon of Retinopathy of Prematurity was completely missed. The court pointed out that “this disease occurs in infants who are prematurely born and who have been administered oxygen and blood transfusion upon birth and further, that if detected early enough, it can be prevented. It is said that prematurity is one of the most common causes of blindness and is caused by an initial constriction and then rapid growth of blood vessels in the retina. When the blood vessels leak, they cause scarring. These scars can later shrink and pull on the retina, sometimes detaching it” and that
“All infants with a birth weight less than 1500 gms or gestational age less than 32 weeks are required to be screened for ROP”
Further, regarding the case, the Honorable court agreed with the findings of the NCDRC that the doctors and hospital were negligent in their duty and were deficient in their services in not screening the child between 2 to 4 weeks after birth when it is mandatory to do so and especially since the child was under their care.
Regarding the compensation the court took into account, the previous expenses that were incurred by the family on the child, the financial hardship that the family has undergone, and assistance required for the blind child in the future. Taking future value considerations in mind, the court decided that Rs 1.38 cr be deposited as an F.D in the name of baby Sharanya. Out of this, the court imposed the lumpsum amount of Rs 1.30 cr from the State of Tamil Nadu and the Director, Government Hospital for Women & Children, Egmore, Chennai and Rs 8 Lacs to be paid by doctors involved (equally divided). Further in lieu of the past medical expenses, the parties were also required to reimburse the patient’s family in manner decided by the court.
You can read a copy of the judgement here:-