The Supreme Court has directed a Delhi-based hospital and its doctors to pay Rs 76 lakh compensation to a 14-year-old boy for medical negligence and total lack of care, on their failure to conduct retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) within time of his pre-mature birth, leading to total blindness.
The court said it is well established that a hospital is vicariously liable for the acts of negligence committed by the doctors engaged or empanelled to provide medical care, since a patient goes there on account of the its reputation.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit and Indu Malhotra held Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, a super speciality hospital, and doctors G S Kochhar and Naveen Jain, the consultant paediatricians and S N Jha, senior consultant ophthalmologist jointly and severally liable to pay to the amount to master Rishabh Sharma for “gross deficiency in service”.
The court said grant of compensation to remedy the wrong of medical negligence was within the realm of law of torts. It is based on the principle of 'Restitutio ad integrum' which provided that a person was entitled to damages which should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which would put him in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), one of the major emerging causes of childhood blindness, is a visually progressive disease, which can be treated successfully if it is diagnosed on time.
The doctors here failed to advise or guide the parents about the possibility of the disease. They did not examine the baby as per standard protocol, the court said, upholding the decision of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission but enhancing the compensation amount.
The child barely received education for 4 years, up to 5th standard since he was forced to leave school over parent's inability to bear his educational, co-curricular and transportation expenses.
On account of the negligence of the appellants, the disease remained undiagnosed until December 3, 2005, when the baby was 8 months old. By this time, the ROP had reached a stage, when it became irreversible leading to total blindness, the court said.