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The National Consumer Commission has ruled that a doctor can’t be held responsible for every medical problem that a patient encounters during the course of treatment.

The apex consumer court’s response came on a petition, filed by Subhendu Majumdar, from Kolkata, who alleged negligence in his treatment which resulted in loss of vision in one of his eyes in 1996. He had demanded compensation of Rs.20 lakh, which was turned down.

Majumdar had alleged negligence by the doctor Ashish Bhattacherjee while operating his right eye. This, he alleged, caused infection in his eye which resulted in permanent loss of vision.

Majumdar had undergone a cataract removal surgery and intra ocular lens implant on Oct 14, 1996. The surgery was performed by Bhattarcherjee.

After two days of the surgery, the complainant suffered discomfort, headache and vomiting.

When the relatives of Majumdar contacted the doctor, he was advised to visit Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai. However, by that time the complainant had lost the vision of his right eye.

The consumer commission in its order passed early this month said: “The complainant has tried to paint a picture that under the advice of his client he consulted Dr. Bhattarcherjee and had also agreed to get the procedure done by him under certain belief about the competence and expertise of the respondent, but perhaps in his heart he was not convinced of the same.”

“We must reject this plea of the complainant at the outset because to get the procedure through Dr. Bhattarcherjee was the voluntary decision of the complainant, may be based on the advice of a certain client or his own belief.”

“In any case the complainant has made no grievance either about the qualification, skill or expertise of the respondent in conducting such a procedure,” said the consumer commission, upholding the state consumer commission’s decision that no case is made out against the doctor.

It is unfortunate that the appellant has been rendered almost a visually impaired person in one eye and the vision in his other eye has also been affected, it said.

“But except expressing our heartful sympathy, we are unable to provide any succour to the appellant because it has not been established on record that the eye of the complainant contacted infection of pseudomonas aeruginosa on account of either any negligence committed by opposite party or any deficiency in service on the part of the nursing home,” said presiding member of consumer commission Justice R.C. Jain.

Turning down the plea of Majumdar, the consumer commission, while quoting the Supreme Court guidelines on doctors’ role, said, “Negligence cannot be attributed to a doctor so long as he performs his duties with reasonable skill and competence. Merely because the doctor chooses one course of action in preference to the other one available, he would not be liable if the course of action chosen by him was acceptable to the medical profession.

“It would not be conducive to the efficiency of the medical profession if no doctor could administer medicine without a halter round his neck.

“It is our bounden duty and obligation of the civil society to ensure that the medical professionals are not unnecessary harassed or humiliated so that they can perform their professional duties without fear and apprehension,” it said, dismissing Majumdar’s plea.

“The medical professionals are entitled to get protection so long as they perform their duties with reasonable skill and competence and in the interest of the patients. The interest and welfare of the patients have to be paramount for the medical professionals.”

The apex commission said, “The medical practitioners at times also have to be saved from such a class of complainants who use criminal process as a tool for pressurizing the medical professionals/hospitals, particularly private hospitals or clinics, for extracting uncalled for compensation.

“Such malicious proceedings deserve to be discarded against the medical practitioners.”

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