The father of a pregnant woman, who died after a negligent doctor treated her for cancer that she did not suffer from, has been awarded compensation of Rs.5 lakh by the apex consumer court.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held Chennai-based doctor Kurien Joseph and Joseph Nursing Home in the city guilty of medical negligence and upheld the Tamil Nadu Consumer Commission's decision that "there was medical negligence on their part in giving wrong and irrational medical treatment to the patient for a disease which she did not have".
"The rounds of chemotherapy given to her caused untold damage to her and were also responsible for her death," said commission president Ashok Bhan and member Vineeta Rai recently, dismissing an appeal filed by the doctor and the nursing home.
Joseph and the nursing home were directed to pay by June 2 a sum of Rs.5 lakh as compensation to victim G. Ushanandhini's father Govindarajan, failing which the amount would carry an interest of 9 percent per annum, together with Rs.3,000 as costs, the commission said.
The doctor and the nursing home have the option of challenging the decision in the Supreme Court.
Govindarajan, a resident of Jothi Ramalingam Nagar in Perambakkam, sought compensation of Rs.10 lakh in his complaint, which stated that the cancer treatment given to his daughter was not correct since she was not suffering from the disease. Ushanandhini was admitted with complaints of stomach pain and menstural discharge despite being pregnant.
The commission held the doctor and the nursing home guilty of ignoring a pathologist's advice to conduct tests for cancer before starting the treatment.
"Despite specific advice of the pathologist to correlate the provisional finding of carcinoma with the clinical picture and conduct biological test in dilutions of the patient, the appellants failed to heed this and did not conduct the required tests nor did they consult an oncologist or get biopsy done, which is the common procedure undertaken in cases of suspected cancer of this nature involving mass in the abdomen and growths," Bhan said.
The doctor and the nursing home took the defence that there were important and more than adequate indicators to confirm that the patient had cancer and that there was no need for other tests, including biopsy, which could have caused her further damage.
The commission rejected the contention and said: "We are unable to accept this contention of the appellants.No medical report has been produced to conclude that Ushanandhini was suffering from cancer."
The doctor, not having conclusively established that the deceased was suffering from cancer, should have realised that chemotherapy was ill-advised on the patient. "We, therefore, hold that the opposite parties had been negligent in treating the patient and this had been the cause for the death of the patient," the judgment said.
"We note that appellants had deposited a sum of Rs.2.50 lakh with the state commission, vide this commission's order of Feb 5, 2008. In that case, this amount be released to Govindarajan with interest accrued thereon and appellants are directed to pay the remaining amount as directed above," Bhan said.
(Rahul Chhabara can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--Indo-Asian News Service rah/vm/tb
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