11, March 2010
By Jehangir B Gai
Doc Held Guilty Of Negligence For Prescribing Allopathic Drugs
Backdrop: Sometimes, homeopathic doctors set up clinics and practise as allopathic medical practioners, even though this is illegal. M G Rahatgaonkar, president of the Central Mumbai District Forum, recently directed a homeopath to pay Rs 15 lakh as compensation to the kin of a patient who died after he prescribed allopathic medicine to him.
Case Study: On September 1, 2007, Suryaprakash Rai (27) felt feverish and had a body ache. So he went to Dr S E Bhusari–a homeopath practising at Antop Hill–who administered an injection and prescribed some medicines. The same night, Rai developed rashes all over his body. The next morning he was rushed to Sion Hospital and admitted there.
Sion hospital doctors said that Rai was suffering from a “drug–induced” illness. “He had petechial rash all over his body (which is caused by bleeding underneath the skin). He had also developed breathlessness and sub–conjunctival haemorrhage (bleeding in the eye underneath the conjunctiva),” the medical records said. In an attempt to save Rai, platelets were transfused. However, he died a few hours later.
The post–mortem report showed that Rai’s lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys had failed. The cause of death was stated as “intrapulmonary haemorrhage due to acute febrile illness in a known case of alleged treatment by a practitioner”.
The patient’s widow, Rani Rai, obtained the post–mortem report under the RTI Act and filed a complaint against Dr Bhusari in the consumer court. She claimed that her husband was working as an office assistant in a private limited company, earned Rs 5,000 per month and looked after four people–including a four–year–old child and aged parents.
Dr Bhusari denied there was any negligence on his part. The homeopath admitted having prescribed Paracetamol, Nimesulide and CPM Tablets for fever, cold and cough. He, however, alleged that Rai had resorted to self–medication by taking Combiflam without medical advice. Dr Bhusari also blamed Sion Hospital doctors for Rai’s death and disputed the medical history given at the time of his admission.
However, the forum did not agree with Dr Bhusari. It noted that Rai had taken Combiflam prior to visiting the homeopath. Combiflam contains Iburprofen which is a safe drug. On the questioning of the medical history recorded by the Sion Hospital, the forum observed that a patient who is fighting for his life, would not give a wrong medical history, as he would always want proper treatment. The medical history recorded at such a time could be equated with a “dying declaration”. Hence the medical record of the Sion Hospital could not be simply brushed aside.
Relying on the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Poonam Verma v/s Ashwin Patel & Ors., and also that of the National Commission in the case of P.N. Thakur v/s Hans Charitable Hospital, the Forum observed that “…allopathy and homeopathy” are different. “A doctor must not only be qualified… but he must also be registered with the appropriate Medical Council in order to practise as a doctor. A homeopath would not have knowledge about allopathic medicines and its drug reactions. So the mere administration of allopathic treatment by a homeopath would be enough proof to establish negligence.”
Dr Rajendra Bengal, a medico–legal expert in forensic medicine, stated that prescribing and administering allopathic drugs by a homeopathic practitioner constitutes negligence per se irrespective of whether the treatment is correct or not. He opined that Nimesulide is known to be a toxic drug. The report also stated that Nimesulide is banned in several countries. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has banned the combination of Nimesulide with Paracetamol. Yet Dr Bhuari recklessly administered the combination drugs in violation of the DCGI’s order, without knowing the complications of its toxicity.
Accordingly, the Forum held Dr Bhusari guilty of negligence and liable for deficiency in service resulting in Rai’s death. Taking into account various factors such as the dependants on Rai’s income, his age, his income, etc. the Forum held Dr Bhusari liable to pay a compensation of Rs 15 lakh to Rani Rai and costs of Rs 5,000.
Impact: No amount of money can compensate the loss of a human life. Patients would do well to ensure that they go to qualified doctors practising the stream of medicine in which they are qualified and registered.