Conviction of Padma awardee doctor upheld

The Bombay High Court today upheld the conviction of oncologist and Padma Bhushan recipient Dr P B Desai in a medical negligence case dating back to 1989, observing that his conduct as a doctor showed "violent indifference, recklessness and ego".

Desai was accused of being responsible, through negligence, of the death of Leela Singhi, wife of retired IAS officer P C Singhi. Leela, who was being treated for cancer by Dr Desai, died on February 25, 1989.

A magistrate's court found Dr Desai guilty under section 338 of IPC (act endangering life/personal safety), a finding which sessions court upheld, following which he moved the HC.

High Court today also asked him to deposit Rs 50,000 towards compensation. According to Singhi, his wife was made to undergo a surgery at Desai's instructions, though a US-based doctor had advised against it.

The actual surgery was performed by Desai's junior, Dr Mukherjee on December 22, 1987. Dr Desai did not remain present during the operation.

Post-surgery, Leela developed some complications, and died in 1989.

According to Singhi, Desai could not attend the operation because he had scheduled another surgery.

Justice K U Chandiwal said in today's order that "a surgeon of such renowned calibre like Dr Desai should have desisted from fixing two operations on a single day where question of vitality and life of the patient is paramount".

"The criminality lies in running the risk of decision of operation...perpetuated by recklessness and indifference to the consequences. The violent indifference and ego demonstrated by Desai has put the life of the patient in a miserable situation," the High Court said.

"This involves moral delinquency and social impact of such crime cannot be lost sight," the judge said, adding that Dr Desai failed to exercise "reasonable and proper care" by avoiding operating on the patient himself in spite of being aware of the complications.

Singhi had filed another petition seeking compensation from Dr Desai. High Court had directed Desai to pay a compensation of Rs 15 lakh to Singhi in this petition.

By way of punishment for the offence, the trial court had awarded a single day's imprisonment (`till the court rises') to Desai, which he had served on the same day.

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