At Power to Consumer, we feel it is our moral obligation to make our blog readers aware of the powers of being a consumer. And the strength the term carries. One such area where we feel we really need to empower our readers of their rights is in the area of medical negligence. Time and again we have come across cases where the callousness of a medical professional caused grave consequences to the life of an innocent patient.
We want to make you aware of certain real life cases, and the legal course that was taken, so you know how to seek justice should an unforeseen situation trap you or your loved ones.
The first case study that we had covered in this domain was the case of a Jai Prakash Mehta vs. an ENT Specialist. Today, we will be talking about the case of Dr. Balram Haldar Vs. Dr. Kunal Saha & Ors.
Dr. Kunal Saha’s wife Smt. Anuradha Saha developed severe skin rashes all over body. She had developed Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare, life-threatening skin condition usually caused by reaction to drugs. She started visiting Sukumar Mukherjee, a doctor at Nightingale Diagnostic Center, Kolkata. Seeing no improvement in her condition, Dr. Kunal Saha got her admitted in the ‘Advanced Medicare and Research Institute Limited (AMRI), Kolkata’. But there instead of showing improvement, her condition worsened. Finally, Dr. Kunal decided to admit her to the reputed Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai. Unfortunately, Mrs. Saha breathed her last in that hospital in a span of just ten days.
An Aggrieved Dr. Saha Lodged a Complaint
Shocked at the death of her wife, Dr. Kunal Saha felt strongly in his heart that it was the sheer callousness of all the doctors treating his wife that led to her death. He knew that it was a severe case of medical negligence, and he took it upon himself to fight for justice. He, accordingly, served legal notices upon the doctors of AMRI alleging negligence and deficiency in their treatment. He claimed a total compensation of Rs.55 crores from the Hospital.
But AMRI dismissed his complaint.
Approaching Consumer Court
Aggrieved at the dismissal, he filed a case in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission slapping a compensation of over seventy-five crores on AMRI, Kolkata. He also filed another case of Rs.25 crores against Breach Candy Hosptial, Mumbai, but later withdrew the same. The compensation amount that Dr. Kunal Saha was the highest ever claimed by a complainant for the cause of medical negligence.
The Legal Battle Began
A protracted trial taking note of the legal position governing the question of medical negligence followed. But the National Commission dismissed Dr. Kunal Saha’s complaint stating that doctors or surgeons do not undertake that they will positively cure a patient. There may be occasions beyond the control of the medical practitioner to cure the patients.
Aggrieved by the dismissal of his complaint, Dr. Kunal took the matter to the Honourable Supreme Court of India through a Civil Appeal. The Apex Court through its Order remanded the matter to the National Commission, but only for the limited purpose of determining the adequate compensation. The Supreme Court observed that:
“ So far as the judgment of the National Commission is concerned, it was clearly wrong in opining that there was no negligence on the part of the Hospital or the doctors. We remit the case back to the Commission, but only for the purpose of determination of the quantum of compensation. We further direct that if any foreign experts are to be examined it shall be done only through video conferencing and at the cost of the respondents”.
Persistence Always Pays
But the case didn’t end here.
Several re-appeals were made against the quantum of compensation. Both by AMRI to scale down and by Dr. Kunal Saha for enhancement. The re-appeals were filed in the Supreme Court. The Apex Court amalgamated all said appeals and passed a landmark verdict.The Honourable Supreme Court passed a judgement in favor of Dr. Kunal Saha by levying a fine on AMRI and the three doctors. They were asked to pay a compensation to the tune of 11 crores that included the interest from the date the case was filed by Dr. Kunal Saha. . Out of this compensation amount, the Honourable Supreme Court was pleased to award a substantial amount on account of Consortium, also beside other losses, being incurred so far – [Consortium means companionship, affection & assistance that each Spouse in a marriage is entitled to receive from the other].
The judgement also set a milestone for the highest amount of compensation granted in a case of medical negligence. The Apex Court also directed the erring three doctors & hospital to file a compliance report of payment to Dr. Kunal Saha within the next eight weeks.
Our blog readers can read more about the case on the Supreme Court’s website at www.stpl-india.in the case titled as Dr. Balram Haldar vs. Dr. Kunal Saha and Ors.
This particular case was a landmark decision in the area of medical negligence. It tested the limits of patience of a consumer. But in the end the consumer came victorious as the right judgement was accorded. We are sure that the passed verdict will be a deterrent for hospitals and doctors to take act responsibly.
Doctors are considered as Gods on earth. We entrust our life as well as the lives of our precious ones in their hands thinking that they will do their best to serve us, as they are bonded by the Hippocratic Oath to practice medicine honestly. The least we can expect them is to uphold their professional standards.
What you can do now?
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of such medical negligence, log on to www.powertoconsumer.in and submit your complaint. We will do our best to help you exercise your power as a consumer.