19September2018

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Doctors liable to take ‘reasonable’ care: Commission

A while back, the National Consumer Dispute Commission observed a doctor can be booked for medical negligence even if the situation doesn’t turn life threatening but reasonable degree of care is not taken while deciding on the course of treatment or while treating the patient.

GAUZE MOP LEFT INSIDE PATIENT

The Commission made the move after hearing a petition of a Delhi-based woman who underwent third surgery for abdominal pain in Mumbai and doctors found a gauze mop that was left inside her stomach from the previous surgery.

The complainant Kamla Devi, after getting discharged from the hospital, filed a complaint in the state panel against the doctors in Delhi who operated on her the first two times in November and December 1995. Reportedly, she was being treated by Dr R K Jain and Dr S Mehta and the former had suggested the surgery.

The first time she was admitted in the hospital in November 1995 was for abdominal pain and vomiting. On the basis of her doctor’s advice, she underwent a surgery but her pain didn’t get better so she was re-admitted and operated upon again.

Even after this, when her pain persisted, another surgery was reportedly suggested by Dr Jain. On relatives’ advice, she came to Mumbai for the surgery where the gauze was discovered in her abdomen.

The doctors at first denied the allegations. Their arguments were rejected by the state panel after which they appealed to the national commission. Here they argued the ‘negligence’ did not pose a threat to the woman’s health and life so it cannot be amounted as medical negligence. That is when the national commission observed negligence doesn’t have to amount to death or pose a risk to health and asked the doctors responsible to compensate the women by paying Rs 50,000.

The judgement was passed 17 years after her first operation.

Rarely a month goes by without some or the other doctor being accused of medical negligence by the patient or kin of the patient. The degree of negligence and its repercussions can vary from person to person but that does not mean a doctor is not liable for the negligence and shouldn’t be punished for it. But, many doctors think otherwise as was apparent in the case of Kamla Devi.

MOTHER DIES DUE TO POST-OP COMPLICATIONS

It is only when a patient dies or something seriously goes wrong with the patient’s health that doctors are held guilty for negligence. Sadly, even at times when the doctors are proclaimed guilty, it takes way too long for the punishment to actually be delivered. Dr Nikita Manchanda, who delivered a baby boy through C-Section on 3rd May 2009 in Max Hospital, Delhi, died after two days owing to a complication.

A day after her delivery, she complained of severe abdominal pain and began to vomit continuously. In desperation, she called her gynaecologistDrAlka Gupta. However, even after hours of writhing in pain her calls went unanswered. Nikita was administered pain-killers by the resident doctor at the hospital after consultation with Dr Gupta and the anaesthetist. The doctor did not find it necessary to examine Nikita even though the pain-killer did nothing to alleviate her condition.

The next morning, on realising that her condition wasn’t improving, the doctor rushed Nikita to the ICU. It took a full three hours to shift Nikita to the ICU and arrange for blood. Nikita was declared dead by noon.

Reportedly, Nikita’s father had filed more than 50 RTIs to the police department, the health department of India, Medical Council of India and Delhi Medical Council.

And, it was in 2010 that the reply to his RTI application to Medical Council of India revealed that Max hospital had enough evidence to prove the four doctors were guilty of medical negligence and their quantum of punishment would be revealed in ‘next meeting.’

That the doctors were guilty was decided by the ethics committee in June 2010. More than a year passed and there was no sign of the ‘next meeting’ in which the punishment of the guilty was to be decided even when Manchanda filed an RTI application asking about the case.

It was only in May 2012, when Manchanda filed a second appeal to the ex-Central Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi that Gandhi directed the PIO of the MCI to provide details of quantum of punishment awarded to the doctors and also put it up on its website along with other doctors found guilty since January 2011.

PATIENT TURNED AWAY, DELIVERS ON ROAD

Around a fortnight back, Bombay HC refused to give relief to a doctor held guilty of negligence. Last year, a pregnant woman, Tabassum Sheikh had come to Bhabha Hospital and was examined by DrAtulKulkarni who then directed Tabassum to DrManorhitaGaikwad (the petitioner).

Reportedly, the doctors referred Sheikh to another centre but didn’t arrange for an ambulance for her and Tabassum delivered a baby right at the hospital gate. By the time any medical help could reach her the baby died. The BMC sacked the doctor for negligence and the HC upheld BMC’s decision.

…ANOTHER DELIVERY ON ROAD

In a similar situation, in April this year, in Hyderabad, a pregnant woman was allegedly turned away from a government-run hospital and she ended up delivering the baby on the road.

After severe protests from the locals, a probe was ordered against the hospital. Thankfully, in this case, the mother and the child survived.

Cases like these are not really rare to come by. Doctors in government hospitals turning patients away every now and then or doing a shoddy job without the fear of any sort of reprisal or exposure should be punished severely enough that it serves as a lesson for other such doctors who take issues of medical negligence lightly.

Not just in government hospitals, doctors in private hospitals too should have empathy towards patients, fear the law and not take issues of health lightly as is usually the case.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)