Most Publicised Medical Negligence Cases In India
Acc. to Bharati Pawar, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, India has 1 doctor for every 834 people. This is superior to WHO's suggested doctor-population ratio of 1:000.
Given India had one government doctor per 11528 people in the past, the above data is a welcoming relief. It shows that our medical system is advancing on the right track. But despite the positivity. The latest medical negligence cases in India statistics tell a worrying tale. About 5.2 million lives go every year due to careless errors. At the same time, the harassment faced by healthcare practitioners is a big issue. There are cases where the patient’s death was inevitable but the doctor was still blamed.
Let us dig deep into some famous medical negligence cases in India and analyze them.
Kunal Saha Versus AMRI
A US-based child psychologist, Anuradha Saha, 36, came for her Kolkata vacation on April 1, 1998. After contracting a fever and skin rashes on April 25th, she went to Dr Sukumar Mukherjee on the 26th. But instead of medicine, she was simply advised to take rest. When the situation didn't improve, Anurabha recontacted Mukherjee on 7th May. On this occasion, she was injected with a high dose of the steroid Depo Medrol. A step that was found to be faulty later on. Not only that, Anuradha was also asked to take 2 injections daily for the next 3 days.
Post that, Mrs Saha developed more aggressive rashes and was admitted to AMRI on May 11. There, she was given another steroid Prednisolone, causing inflammation and blood vessel damage. In the meantime, Mukherjee traveled to the US on a pre-arranged visit. Thereby, leaving Anuradha under doctors Balram Haldar and Abani Roychowdhury’s care. When her condition worsened, her husband Kunal Saha, a doctor himself, flew her to BreachCandy Hospital, Mumbai, on 17th May. She died on 28th May due to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.
In March 1999, Kunal Saha launched his battle for justice. He lost initially at West Bengal Medical Council and Calcutta High Court. But instead of giving up, he moved to the Supreme Court. The 15-year fight came to an end in 2013 with the family compensated.
This is one of the most famous medical negligence cases in India for more than one reason. The Saha family got a landmark compensation of 11 crore. Given the average INR 3,00,000-6,00,000, this was a huge achievement. It serves as a prime example of the vulnerability of doctors too. Even they can be victims of medical errors at the hands of their fellow counterparts.
V. Kishan Rao Against Nikhil Super Speciality Hospital
This is an 8th March 2010 case. It involves Krishna Rao, filing a complaint against Nikhil Super Speciality Hospital. Krishna is an officer in the Department of Malaria. He admitted his wife to the hospital on 20th July 2002 after she complained of fever and chills. She underwent some tests and was given medicines, to which her body didn’t respond. On 22nd July, she was given saline. The bottle had particles in It. But despite her family pointing it out, the hospital didn’t pay any heed. The following day, Mrs Rao suffered respiratory trouble and was on artificial oxygen. According to the complainant, this wasn’t necessary and didn’t help in the actual problem.
When her condition got more critical, she was shifted to the Yashoda Hospital. From the admission particulars, it was seen that she was already clinically dead. The reason stated was Cardiorespiratory and Malaria. Later on, it became evident that Mrs Rao received treatment for Typhoid instead of Malaria. This complicated her condition and ultimately her demise.
Krishna Rao was given a compensation of INR 2 lakhs. The judgment was based on res Ipsa loquitur. Meaning ‘the thing speaks for itself’. It was a case of misdiagnosis/ wrong diagnosis so the doctors were held liable for the death of the patient.
Jacob Mathew Versus State of Punjab
On February 15, 1995, Jiwan Lal was admitted to CMC Hospital, Ludhiana. He suffered breathing difficulty on February 22nd. His eldest son informed the nurse but the doctors didn’t show up for 20-25 minutes. After that, Dr Joseph and Dr Allen came to inspect and gave an oxygen cylinder. When the problem aggravated, the cylinder was found to be empty. Due to the unavailability of any more 02 cylinders in the room, his son rushed to find one. But by the time he returned, another doctor had already declared Jiwan Lal dead.
The family filed FIR under 304 (A) (death due to negligence) and 34 (intention of criminal activity). While the accused doctors informed that Mr Lal was already in a terminal stage of cancer. He hasn't been admitted by other hospitals for the same reason. CMC took him on request by some influential people, known to the family.
When it went to court, the judge didn’t entertain it as a matter of criminal rashness. They ordered the investigating officer to not proceed. Unless they get an unbiased and impartial opinion from another competent doctor. This made it count among the most famous medical negligence cases in India. Although no immunity was granted, it gave hope to the medical profession.
However, given the lack of cylinders, the court ruled the hospital may be liable in criminal law.
Dr Archana Sharma's Suicide Case
The rising number of medical negligence cases in India led to many doctors' arrests under IPC Section 304. But as we know not all deaths are a result of professional malpractice. In this case, too, the death of the patient was due to postpartum hemorrhage. But the family charged the hospital for medical negligence. An FIR was filed against Jaipur gynecologist Dr Archana Sharma. And that too under 302 IPC, a section for murder. Unable to take the harassment and tarnishing of her image, Archana took the extreme step to end her life. In her note, she requested ‘DON'T HARASS INNOCENT DOCTORS’. She also talked about her innocence explaining how PPH is a known complication.
This March 2022 incident is among the latest medical negligence cases in India. It is a serious eye-opener because the real victim in this scenario is a medical professional. The matter reflects how false accusations can destroy the career of a doctor. And often be the reason for their death too.
Following this, Ankit Chaudhary was suspended. He was the one overseeing operations at the Lalsot police station. The Superintendent of Police handling the matter was also removed. This does not satisfy the grave concern though. Doctors still have no protection and many a time get the blame even without evidence.
Proper education is key to stopping the rise in the number of medical negligence cases in India. Many are not aware of their medical rights. Nor can they identify ‘actual’ malpractice instead of generalizing every death situation.
We must consider every aspect and question ourselves. Has any carelessness occurred on the part of the health professional? Or was it just an unfortunate occurrence? After all, just like the patient's families, the loved ones of the accused doctors also suffer.