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Delhi hospital to pay Rs.8 lakh for patient's death
Tuesday August 13, 2013 6:47 PM, Rahul Chhabra, IANS

Delhi-based St. Stephen's Hospital has been directed by the apex consumer court to pay Rs.8 lakh to the widow of a private school teacher who was discharged despite being far from fit and died soon after due to medical negligence.

Roshani Devi, wife of Ram Niwas and resident of Haryana's Rohtak district, pleaded before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission that doctors at St. Stephen's Hospital in north Delhi were negligent in discharging her husband, leading to his death within 13 days in 1996.

National commission Presiding Member Vineeta Rai and Member Vinay Kumar rejected the hospital's denial of any negligence and enhanced the compensation awarded by the state consumer commission from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.8. Lakh.

"The order of the state commission is modified and the compensation of Rs.5 lakh is enhanced to Rs.8 lakh," the national commission said in a recent order.

The hospital has time till Oct 31 for paying Rs.8 lakh to Roshani Devi and a delay in doing so would invite an interest of nine percent per annum, said Rai.

"Keeping in view the gross medical negligence on the part of the hospital in the treatment of the patient which was substantially responsible for his death at the age of 32 years, the medical expenses incurred by Roshani Devi, the invaluable loss both financial and emotional of a spouse and father caused to her minor children...we are, therefore, of the view that a lump sum compensation of Rs.8 lakh is justified," said the national commission.

Roshani Devi, in her complaint, said her husband was suffering from intermittent fever in Februray 1996 which could not be cured in Rohtak. So, he was admitted to St. Stephen's Hospital Feb 22, 1996.

At the time of his discharge Feb 26, 1996, the doctor gave the remark that the patient had "improved" and required treatment as an outdoor patient, said the complaint, alleging that Ram Niwas was, in fact, in a very critical condition.

The widow said her husband was discharged with a blood platelet count which had dropped to critical levels of 19,000-16,000 per cumm, whereas the normal count was between 150,000-450,000 per cumm.

The complaint said that although the doctor of St. Stephen's Hospital clearly recorded that liver abscess was suspected in her husband, no tests were conducted to confirm this.

On the night immediately after his discharge, Ram Niwas' condition deteriorated and bleeding started from his nails, gums and nose. He died in another hospital where he was taken March 11, 1996, the complaint said.

Seeking compensation of Rs.15 lakh, the widow alleged that she suffered mental agony and spent Rs.1.2 lakh on her husband's treatment after he left St. Stephen's Hospital.

Her complaint alleging medical negligence was accepted by the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which awarded her Rs.5 lakh compensation. She then moved the national commission for enhancing the amount.

The hospital denied any medical negligence. "A doctor can be said to be guilty of negligence only if he commits such an error which no doctor of reasonable competence will commit," it argued in the national commission.

A doctor could not make a final diagnosis straightway and any diagnosis made by him was always to an extent prima facie, it said.

Ram Niwas was properly taken care of and treated as per medical practices and procedures. At the time he was discharged he was not in a serious or a life threatening condition, the hospital said.

The state commission, while ruling in favour of Roshani Devi, said: "Taking an overall view of the matter, the age of the patient as well as the profession and his earnings, the legal heirs left by him and the medical negligence on the part of the hospital - mainly discharging the patient in such a condition which was against medical ethics - Rs.5 lakh to be paid by St.Stephen's Hospital would meet the ends of justice."

The hospital now has the option of challenging the national commission's judgment in the Supreme Court.

(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at rahul.c@ians.in)

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