SC slaps record fine for medical lapse

Court orders hospital, doctors to pay up Rs 11.5 cr

SC slaps record fine for medical lapse

The Supreme Court on Thursday awarded the highest-ever compensation of around Rs 11.41 crore to a US-based doctor for death of his 29-year-old wife due to medical negligence by Kolkata doctors in 1998, hoping that the verdict would act as a deterrent for careless doctors and hospitals.

The amount directed by the apex court is an exemplary compensation in the medico-legal case in the country. A software engineer was granted the maximum award of Rs 1 crore in 2009.

The trend-setting verdict is the result of a relentless fight by Kunal Saha, an AIDS researcher in Ohio, who took the matter up to the apex court to prove that his wife, Anuradha, died due to the wrong line of treatment.

The apex court favoured enactment of laws by Central and the state governments for effective functioning of the private hospitals and nursing homes.

Setting a benchmark, a bench of Justices C K Prasad and V Gopala Gowda raised the compensation amount of Rs 1.73 crore, awarded by the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in 2011, to Rs 6.08 crore with 6 per cent annual interest to Saha. 

This is second round of litigation as the apex court had earlier referred the matter to the NCDRC for determining compensation. 

The court took into consideration several factors, including the deceased’s earning, age and future prospects, and personal loss to her husband, besides the inflation, to compute the compensation.

In its 210-page judgment, the bench said: “The doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other connected establishments are to be dealt with strictly if they are found to be negligent with the patients who come to them pawning all their money with the hope to live a better life with dignity. The patients irrespective of their social, cultural and economic background are entitled to be treated with dignity which not only forms their fundamental right but also their human right. We, therefore, hope and trust that this decision acts as a deterrent and a reminder to those doctors, Hospitals, the Nursing Homes and other connected establishments who do not take their responsibility seriously.”

The court was dealing with cross appeals filed by doctors, the hospital and the victim’s husband against the NCDRC order.

The court directed Kolkata’s Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) and the three doctors to shell out the money along with 6 per cent interest.

Dr  Sukumar Mukherjee and Dr Baidyanath Haldar will pay Rs 10 lakh each while Dr Balram Prasad will cough up Rs 5 lakh.  

The court earlier held the hospital as well as the doctors liable for death of the woman, who was a child psychologist. 

After the death of his wife, Saha set up an NGO called “People for Better Treatment” for promoting better healthcare in India.

Anuradha came to Kolkata in 1998 to for her brother’s wedding function. As she developed a skin allergy, the couple consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee for  treatment, who prescribed the medicine with some high dosage. 

She was then admitted to AMRI Hospital where she was treated by the four guilty doctors (one of them died during the pendency of the case). However, her condition worsened and she was eventually shifted to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai where she died on May 28, 1998.

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