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Times of India
15 May 2009
By Dhananjay Mahapatra
New Delhi/Hyderabad, India

In the highest compensation ordered by an Indian court in a medical negligence case, a techie who found himself paralyzed waist down after a surgeon damaged his spinal chord during an operation to remove a tumour in the chest, was awarded Rs 1 crore in damages by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The victim, Prashant S. Dhananka, 39, who spiritedly argued his case in the apex cour from a wheelchair he has been confined to since the operation 19 years ago, had sought a compensation of Rs 7 crore. SC order sets new precedent in medical negligence cases

The court, however, settled for an almost seven–fold increase in the Rs 15 lakh amount awarded by the Andhra Pradesh high court. Dhananka, a senior manager with Infosys earning Rs 1.5 lakh a month and residing in Bangalore, gave vivid details of the gross negligence he suffered at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Hyderabad, and demonstrated the inadequacy of the compensation awarded by the high court. NIMS, a semi–government set up, is rated as one of the premier hospitals in the country.

While increasing the compensation to Rs 1 crore, the bench comprising Justices B.N. Agrawal, H.S. Bedi and G.S. Singhvi showed both its disgust at blatant attempts by NIMS to wriggle out of its responsibility for the victim’s condition and acknowledged the need to provide for the huge medical expenses that Dhananka has had to incur every month since 1990.

“Fighting the case was a great struggle. We were totally disappointed with the compensation. The hospital made him totally dependent. He cannot even turn on his own,” Prashant’s mother Indira Sheshadri, 64, told TOI, from Bangalore.

Dhananka’s nightmarish experience is similar to the case of national table tennis player V. Chandrasekhar, who fought a legal battle against Apollo Hospital, Chennai, for over a decade before being awarded Rs 19 lakh by the SC in February 1995–the highest compensation in a medical negligence case in India before the Dhananka verdict. He too had been left partially paralyzed due to medical negligence.

For Dhananka, it all began on September 19, 1990, when he got himself examined at NIMS for frequently recurring fever. Dhananka was studying mechanical engineering at the time. The hospital diagnosed a benign tumour in the chest. He underwent thoracotomy for removal of the tumour but due to negligence during the operation, his spinal chord was damaged. He developed paralysis in the lower part of his body and since then has been confined to a wheelchair. The SC agreed with Dhananka’s plea that his bright future was cut short due to the mistake of doctors.

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