Foreign Voice in Medical Case- Supreme Court Allows Experts from Abroad to Testify
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18 May 2010
By Samanwaya Rautray
New Delhi, India
The Supreme Court has for the first time allowed foreign experts to testify in a medical negligence case, setting a precedent that could transform such lawsuits in India.
One reason few medical negligence cases in the country lead to compensation is that Indian doctors are notoriously reluctant to testify against their peers.
The top court today cleared the decks for four US experts to depose through video–conferencing in the high–profile Anuradha Saha case, where the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is to fix the amount of compensation to be paid by four doctors and a Calcutta hospital.
The commission had last month refused to let these experts depose in favour of US–based doctor Kunal Saha, who has sought Rs 78 crore as damages for wife Anuradha’s “wrongful” death in AMRI Hospitals, Calcutta, in 1998.
The apex court also said the four doctors and the hospital must foot the bill for the deposition by the US experts, which an elated Saha felt should be a precedent too.
The top court had last August held the accused negligent under the Consumer Protection Act and merely asked the commission to fix the compensation.
Saha wants to produce John Last Burke, an economist from Cleveland; John Broughton, a psychology professor from Columbia University, New York; Joe Griffith, a legal expert on damages in medical negligence cases; and Angela Hill, an economist from Ohio.
The psychologist is expected to depose on the trauma caused to Saha and the economists to estimate the losses he had suffered. The NRI couple were both doctors, the husband a consultant on HIV/AIDS and the wife a child psychologist.
Although none of the four US experts is a doctor, the apex court’s order applies to foreign doctors too. Saha, speaking over the phone from the US, hoped that more victims of medical negligence in India would now be encouraged to move court.
Anuradha, a patient of toxic epidermal necrolysis, was 36 when, during a trip to India, she died of complications from an alleged steroid overdose.