Hospital wins medical negligence case in NCDRC but still agrees to pay ₹7 lakh to patient's family on humanitarian grounds

Hospital wins medical negligence case in NCDRC but still agrees to pay ₹7 lakh to patient's family on humanitarian grounds

A recent case of medical negligence before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) ended on heart-warming note after the accused-hospital, despite winning the case, agreed to pay ₹7 lakh to the deceased patient's family on humanitarian grounds [Philips Thomas v Deen Hospital].

The State Dispute Redressal Commission had awarded ₹7 lakh as compensation to a patient's family, holding the hospital and doctors negligent for his death.

NCDRC Presiding Officer Dr SM Kanitkar overturned the same but the hospital nevertheless expressed its willingness to pay the amount of ₹7 lakh already deposited with the State Commission.

The NCDRC accepted the same but said that the same should not be treated as a precedent.

"The learned Counsel for OPs on instructions from OP-1 made submissions that, on humanitarian grounds, the OP-1 on his own volition wishes to pay the amount of ₹7 lakh which has already been deposited in the State Commission. Therefore, the Registrar of the State Commission is directed to release Rs.7 lakhs along with the accrued interest to the Complainants within six weeks from today. It is made clear that, in any manner this shall not be construed as a precedent," the order noted.

Pertinently, the NCDRC in its order held that every death of a patient cannot, on the face of it, be considered as death due to medical negligence, unless there is material on record to suggest so.

"It is pertinent to note that in the instant case after the surgery the doctors in the operation theatre have effectively managed the complications and done resuscitation," said the NCDRC while setting aside the State Commission's order.

The case arose when a 37-year-old patient, who underwent laparoscopic sterilisation, died following surgery. According to the complainant, the cause of death showed that general anesthesia and spinal anesthesia were administered on the patient simultaneously.

It was submitted that the operation was done in a casual manner. It was also stated that the doctor who administered anesthesia was not qualified to do so as he was not an anesthetist.

The doctors, however, argued that the patient was managed with care and shifted to a higher centre without delay and everything necessary was done with best of interest of the patient on mind.

The Commission found that the doctor was competent to administer anesthesia for minor procedures.

"Had experience in the field of anesthesia over 25 years. The Travancore Kochi Medical Council allows doctor with MBBS to administer anesthesia. In my view, she was competent to administer anesthesia for minor procedures," said the NCDRC.

It referred to the case of Jacob Mathew v State of Punjab wherein the Supreme Court had laid down the test for establishing medical negligence. It said that in every case where the treatment is not successful or the patient dies during surgery, it cannot be automatically assumed that the medical professional was negligent.

With this, the appeal against the State Commission's order was allowed.

However, on humanitarian grounds, the hospital requested that the amount of ₹7 lakh already deposited with the State Commission be released to the complainant.

The complainants were represented by advocates Saju Jakob, Arush Gangal, and Tessy Varghese.

Deen Hospital was represented by advocates Raghenth Basant and Ajay Krishna.