Experts must substantiate medical negligence case: SC

Experts must substantiate medical negligence case: SC

A doctor cannot be accused of medical negligence unless it is substantiated with the opinion of medical experts, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench of Justices Abhay Manohar Sapre and Vineet Saran also said that there has to be “a direct nexus” between sufferings of a patient and the medical aid that she has received, to sue the doctor.

“Suffering from ailment by the patient after surgery is one thing. It may be due to myriad reasons known in medical jurisprudence. Whereas suffering of any such ailment as a result of improper performance of the surgery and that too with the degree of negligence on the part of the doctor is another thing,” the court said.

The top court allowed an appeal filed by Kolkata-based Dr S K Jhunjhunwala against the direction issued by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to pay Rs 2 lakh to Dhanwanti Kumar, for performing open surgery on her gallbladder in 1996.

Dhanwanti claimed she gave consent for laparoscopy surgery only after the open surgery resulted in multiple problems like dysentery, loss of appetite, reduction of weight, jaundice etc. The woman-complainant said she had to undergo another surgery at a Delhi hospital for removal of stones.

The court said the complainant had failed to prove that her sufferings were results of improper performance of conventional surgery by the doctor and that if the surgery had been successful, she would not have suffered any kind of these ailments. It also noted the doctor had taken consent from her husband when he found that the open surgery had to be performed during her operation.

The bench relied upon the classic cases on the exposition of law by 'Queen's bench in 'Bolam vs Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) and 'Eckersley vs Binnie (1988)', besides a three-judge bench decision in the case of 'Jacob Mathew vs the State of Punjab' (2005).

It was held that a professional may be held liable for negligence on one of two findings: either he was not possessed of the requisite skill which he professed to have possessed, or, he did not exercise, with reasonable competence in the given case, the skill which he did possess.