A private hospital in Haryana has been asked to pay Rs.2 lakh for negligence leading to the death of a 10-year-old boy, with the top consumer commission slamming its doctors for attempting to suppress facts about the treatment given to the fever-afflicted patient.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held Sun Flag Hospital Research Centre in Faridabad guilty of deficiency in service and rejected its plea that no expert opinion was taken to conclude that Vikas, 10, who was admitted with symptoms of high fever on October 14, 1998, died within a day because the doctors were negligent.
“Expert opinion is not necessary in all cases where the negligence and deficiency in service of the treating doctor is established from the facts and circumstances of the case,” said national commission Presiding Member Ajit Bharihoke and Member Suresh Chandra in a recent order.
The commission upheld the lower fora directing the Faridabad hospital to pay Rs.2 lakh, along with interest for negligence, Rs.5,000 on account of mental agony and Rs.500 as litigation expenses.
“Though the hospital has taken the plea that they had given proper treatment to the patient, but before the district forum…it failed to produce the treatment chart of the patient which proves the act and conduct of the opposite parties with respect to the treatment given to the patient,” the commission said.
“The least that could be expected of the hospital was to present the treatment record of the child so as to enable the fora below to conclude if the petitioners had taken a reasonable care of the deceased patient or they were negligent in their duty to treat the child.
“From the observations of the state commission, it is evident that the petitioners failed to produce the treatment chart of the deceased patient in their evidence,” Mr Bharihoke said.
The boy’s father, Raghubir Singh Poswal, a resident of Palwal, alleged wrong diagnosis by hospital doctors leading to an incorrect line of treatment. He claimed his son was showing symptoms of dengue fever when a private doctor referred him to Sun Flag Hospital Research Centre.
The Faridabad hospital, however, denied wrong treatment and claimed the patient died due to blood cancer, which was detected following tests conducted on him.
The national commission rejected the hospital’s contention, saying Poswal was not informed to shift his ailing son to another hospital for “cancer” treatment.
The apex consumer commission endorsed the state consumer commission’s finding that “It is admitted case of the hospital…the disease suffered by the patient is known as ‘aplastic anemia’ which is called blood cancer in common language and not dengue.
“It is not the case…that the patient was given the treatment of cancer or that the boy’s father was advised to shift his minor son to some other hospital for better treatment of cancer where the treatment of cancer was available,” the state commission said.
Holding the hospital guilty of negligence, the national commission referred to decided Supreme court cases and noted that a “treating doctor can be involved in a criminal offence of medical negligence when there is some evidence of higher degree but the civil liability of the treating doctor for the wrong treatment given to a patient can be fastened on the basis of the facts and circumstances of the case”.
Bharihoke noted in the judgment that the apex court, in the case of V. Kishan Rao, said: “In a case where negligence is evident, the principle of res ipsa loquitur operates and the complainant does not have to prove anything as the thing (res) proves itself. In such a case, it is for the respondent to prove that he has taken care and done his duty to repel the charge of negligence”.
The Faridabad hospital now has the option of challenging the national consumer commission’s decision in the Supreme Court.