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Proving Medical Negligence

Cases of medical negligence are difficult to prove. They involve life-threatening circumstances and the situation is further complicated because the hospital staff rarely testifies against one another. That is why a 28th February 2007 order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) against Bombay Hospital is of immense value. Justice KS Gupta and Mrs Rajyalakshmi Rao ordered Bombay Hospital to pay a compensation of Rs three lakh, in a case ridden with contradictions and incorrect identification of those accused of negligence, where the operation itself was potentially risky since the patient suffered from several serious ailments. The detailed judgement is available on NCDRC’s website. Let me highlight the relevant conclusions.

RK Sharma, 63, fractured his right hip joint after a fall while getting off a bus in 1996. He was rushed to Mumbai’s Jagjivan Ram Hospital. Sharma needed surgery, but it was risky, since he suffered from hypertension, ischemic heart disease, chronic renal failure, secondary hyper para-thyroidism and was asthmatic. He was shifted to Bombay Hospital for better treatment.
Sharma was operated by Dr HR Jhunjhunwala, a senior consulting orthopedic surgeon but died of a cardiac arrest on 2nd May 1996. His wife and children alleged negligence and sued Bombay Hospital and impleaded the cardiologist Dr HK Ayyer and the registrar of the intensive care unit (ICU). Their case benefited from the fact that Mrs Sharma’s brother, a cardiologist, was present during the treatment and filed an affidavit providing expert views. Given Mr Sharma’s many ailments, there was already a serious risk involved in the surgery, making the case even more difficult to prove.

Ms Dalal is the Consulting Editor of MoneyLIFE. Subscribers get free help in resolving their problems with select providers of financial services. She can be reached at suchetadalal @yahoo.com

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