Menace Of Medical Negligence And Recent SC Decision

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In a recent case, SC has awarded a record of Rs. 5.96 crore as compensation for medical negligence to a USA based NRI doctor Kunal Saha who lost his wife Dr Anuradha Saha 15 years ago due to medical negligence by a Kolkata hospital.
About the case (in short)
In April-May 1998, Dr Kunal Saha was holidaying in Kolkata with his wife when she contracted Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, which the NCDRC termed a "rare and deadly disease". Anuradha showed symptoms of rashes over her body and received treatment as an outdoor patient until May 10, 1998.
On May 11, 1998 she was admitted to the AMRI in Kolkata, where she was treated till May 16, 1998. As her condition didn't improve, she was then shifted to a hospital in Mumbai via an air ambulance.
She died on May 28, 1998 following complications from an alleged overdose of steroid that had been administered in Kolkata.
PENALTY
Three doctors found guilty of medical negligence have to pay a total amount of Rs. 25 lakh to Dr. Kunal Saha while the rest of the amount has to be paid by Kolkata's Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital where Anuradha Saha died.
WAS IT CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE
Negligence can never be criminal. It generally happens & then it is the severity of the case which makes its ‘criminal’ oriented not the negligence itself. Severity in this case was aggravated by the death of the patient.
REASONS FOR NEGLIGENCE
  • Profit making approach: Doctors today see ‘doctor’ not as a profession but as a business from which they want to get more and more profit by treating as many patients they can.
  • Less interest to ‘actually’ treat patients
  • Giving false & less effective medicines helps doctor to keep patients in the hospital for a long time.
  • Doctor may not find the remedy of the case in time.
  • Doctors may be busy with other patients.
  • It even happens when junior doctors don’t give correct picture to their seniors to get the right advice.
  • May happen due to delay in initiating treatment
  • May happen due to poor knowledge
  • Due to lack of communication between patient and doctor
  • Due to attitude of doctor of concentrating more on investigating rather than taking history
  • Due to less number of doctors
ARE DOCTORS REALLY RESPONSIBLE
  • Doctor’s job is different from another. For example, any other office person can say you that today is holiday come tomorrow. But doctor has to treat you today if you go to him.
  • Professional liability is too much on doctors.
  • So there are lot of chances of committing mistakes
  • So, accidental cases are excused from negligence
Was there any necessity to give this much money as fine ?
  • Money cant replace any person who has died.
  • It is just done as a condolence in the form of financial terms.
  • Guilty people won’t remember the case if no financial penalty is ordered.
  • Mr. Saha is a NRI & this case has made him to spend 6 to 7 crores for court hearings.
  • Considering the NRI & the amount he has spent, such a huge amount has been ordered to compensate the same.
MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE IN TERMS OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT
In this term, consumer protection act lays down 4 things which it lays down i.e.
1. inadequacy in the service
2. fault in the service
3. instandardization
4. fall in the quality of service
THINGS REQUIRED FOR THE CASE AGAINST MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE
  • A strong proof of the said complaint
  • All the bills, prescriptions, medicine given, etc.
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES REGARDING NEGLIGENCE
  • All the concerned ministries in this case work under Department of Consumer Affairs (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution)
  • The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 mandates establishment of Consumer Protection Councils at the Centre as well as in each State and District, with a view to promoting consumer awareness
  • To provide inexpensive, speedy and summary redressal of consumer disputes, quasi-judicial bodies have been set up in each District and State and at the National level, called the District Forums, the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission respectively.
  • At present, there are 629 District Forums and 35 State Commissions with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) at the apex.
  • NCDRC was established in 1988.
  • Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission Under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the State Commission is conferred with powers to entertain and dispose of complaints filed before it by the consumers, to entertain and dispose of the appeals preferred against the orders passed by the District Forums and revisions filed against the orders passed by the District Forums challenging the orders on the grounds that the Forum has exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested or has acted in exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity in accordance with law.
  • Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum The District Forums are conferred with powers under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to entertain and dispose of the complaints filed by the consumers. As per the amended provisions of the Act, the District Forums are conferred with powers to pass interim orders.
Effects of this case
  • Will act as deterrent
  • Court asserted that it will send a strong message to those who are not attentive in the profession as a doctor.
Measures needed
  • Needs to value ‘life’ by doctor
  • Should work more on research so that recent diseases and problems can be treated effectively
  • Doctor needs to optimize themselves & give their best
  • Communication skills on the part of doctor needs to be improved which will help to make relatives of the patient believe that doctor is trying very hard to fix the problem.
  • Every case coming in a hospital needs to be handled by the senior doctor first and then juniors
  • There should be strict regulation on how many patients a doctor can treat (but it will help a little as the number of patients in India is more & doctors are less)
  • Strict regulation on the fess being charged (it will change attitude from ‘profit making’ to ‘life saving’)
  • Strict placement of proper professional staff (like nurses, compounder, etc.,) in the hospital. It has been seen in many cases that staff in the hospital lacked any professional training.
Practice Questions
Q1
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