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The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Kolkata’s AMRI hospital and three doctors to pay Rs 5.96 crore over to a US – based Indian – origin doctor Kunal Saha who lost his wife during their visit to India 15 years ago.

The court said the hospital additionally would pay an interest of 6% on the amount from the date of filing of claim by Saha. If the interest is taken to be simple in nature, then the hospital would have to pay another Rs 6 crore. Abani Roy Chowdhury, the fourth doctor involved in the case, died during the pendency of the proceedings.

For Saha, fixing the liability for medical negligence had become a crusade. Even as he went from pillar to post to secure justice, he started an NGO to take up thecauseof ethical medical treatment and against excessive/wrong medication by corporate hospitals.

Setting a milestone in compensation in medical negligence cases, which the apex court observed was on the rise in India, given the unregulated growth and commercialization of healthcare services, Justice V Gopala Gowda directed the three doctors and the hospital to file compliance report of payment to Saha in eight weeks.

Bad Diagnosis, Steroid Overdose Killed Anuradha

While on holiday in Kolkata, Anuradha contracted toxic epidermal necrolysis and developed rashes all over her body. On May 11, 1998, she was admitted to AMRI hospital in Kolkata, where she was treated till May 16.Asher condition didn’t improve, she was taken to Breach Candy Hospitalin Mumbai. Shedied on May 28 following complications from bad diagnosis and an overdose of steroid that was administered at the Kolkata hospital.

In March 1999, Saha filed a petition before the NCDRC demanding Rs 77 crore from the four doctors, AMRI hospital and its directors. He also demanded Rs 25.3 crore from the Mumbai hospital, but later withdrew that claim.

The NCDRC had termed the claim, a total of Rs 102 crore, as perhaps the highest ever claimed for medical negligence before any consumer forum in India. Anuradha had first consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee after developing skin rashes on April 25, 1998. The doctor had told her to take rest. When the rashes increased, Mukherjee, on May 7, prescribed Depomedrol injection (80 mg twice daily), a step which was later faulted by medical experts at the apex court. As her condition worsened, she was admitted to AMRI on May 11 under Mukherjee’s supervision. In Breach Candy, she was diagnosed to be suffering from toxic epidermal necrolysis.

In 2009, the Supreme Court had absolved all doctors and hospitals of criminal negligence in treatment, whichspared them of imprisonment. However, the court had held them severally and individually liable for medical negligence leading to Anuradha’s death.

Times of India
25 October 2013,
New Delhi, India
by - Dhananjay Mahapatra

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