Friday, May 15, 2009

Supreme Court awards Rs. 1 crore damages for medical negligence

Medical negligence is something that is penalized the world over. When a patient goes in for a medical procedure, the person is entrusting their lives to the doctor (s) attending on them. It used to be said earlier that a Doctor is a very respected person, and that it would be unfair to penalize a doctor for some problem that occurs during a medical procedure; this is now countered by the argument that modern hospitals and the medical industry charges market rates for their procedures, and hence are not doing any favors to patients. Further, how do you compensate a patient for a case when the hospital has goofed up or indulged in medical malpractise ? Consider this case where a bright IT person was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after a medical procedure (link to article):

In the highest compensation ordered by an Indian court in a medical negligence case, a techie who found himself paralyzed waist down after a surgeon damaged his spinal chord during an operation to remove a tumour in the chest, was awarded Rs 1 crore in damages by the Supreme Court on Thursday. The victim, Prashant S Dhananka, 39, who spiritedly argued his case from a wheelchair he has been confined to since the operation 19 years ago, had sought a compensation of Rs 7 crore.
Dhananka, a senior manager with Infosys earning Rs 1.5 lakh a month and residing in Bangalore, gave vivid details of the gross negligence he suffered at Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, and demonstrated the inadequacy of the compensation awarded by the high court. NIMS, a semi-government set up, is rated as one of the premier hospitals in the country. While increasing the compensation to Rs 1 crore, the bench comprising Justices B N Agrawal, H S Bedi and G S Singhvi showed both its disgust at blatant attempts by NIMS to wriggle out of its responsibility for the victim's condition and acknowledged the need to provide for the huge medical expenses that Dhananka has had to incur every month since 1990.

It was only some years ago that the Supreme Court had almost refused to penalize the medical fraternity for mistakes made; even now the Court expresses worry at the increasing tendency of bringing medical cases into the legal system, yet there is a necessity to do this, as the Court itself acknowledges - when the institution makes blatant mistakes and then tries to cover up, there is no other option than to order the required punishment.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:26 PM