Hospital, Doctors To Compensate Patient with Rs5.66 Lakh for Hepatitis C Infection after Surgery
Mumbai – A lady patient who said she contracted the incurable Hepatitis C virus following a surgery at a reputed hospital in Mumbai was granted Rs 5.66 lakh compensation by the South Mumbai District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum that includes reimbursement of hospital and litigation charges.
The lady, 52-years old in 2007 and healthy, was recommended surgery for hysterectomy by the doctors she consulted after she underwent one month of heavy bleeding. Upon admission at Bombay Hospital, her body and blood tests showed normal parameters before the surgery.
The surgery was conducted on 24 July 2007 "only after receiving a clean chit from the Hospital that she had none of the viruses such as Hepatitis B, C or E or HIV."
However, within one month the lady, "found her skin was itching, her eyes were turning yellow, her urine had turned dark, her stools had become pale and she started suffering from influenza, aching joints and muscles, extreme tiredness, fever, lack of appetite and pain in the stomach,’’ the Redressal Forum said in its order.
She was asked by her family physician Dr Prashant T Mane to get complete blood count, liver function tests, routine urine analysis, Australia Antigen and a few other tests. Since these tests didn’t reveal any abnormality, the patient consulted Dr Amarapurkar at Bombay Hospital, who suggested additional tests, which tested positive HCV (i.e., virus of Hepatitis).
The presence of Hepatitis C in her body would bring down her immunity level and make her prone to contracting all kinds of dangerous diseases, including contagious diseases.
The patient suspected she may have contracted Hepatitis C virus from the hospital since all her tests showed normal status when she came for the surgery. She was not tested by the hospital for Hepatitis C before the operation.
Presence of Hepatitis C would dramatically alter her normal life, interaction with close family members, including her husband, need separate common household items including towels, and require her to take periodic medical check-ups, and regular medicines for the rest of her life. This could also lower her immunity to several other diseases.
The hospital, doctors and other technicians "have caused grave, irreversible and irreparable physical, emotional, psychological, financial and moral harm to her,’’ the complainant said in her application to the Forum.
The hospital and other defendants in turn said the lady was suffering "heavy vaginal bleeding for over a period of one month and the root cause of which was presence of intra uterus tumours called fibroids which were pressing the inner lining of the uterus and causing extensive life threatening loss of blood.’’
The infection may have been contracted after the surgery, the hospital and doctors said in their reply. They explained certain situations in which Hepatitis C virus can be contaminated in the body of the patient. Those situations include: a. Injecting narcotic drugs b. Use of tattoos c. Body piercing d. Transfusion of infected blood e. Sexual intercourse with infected person f. Use of unsterile needles and syringes g. Dental treatment h. Unsterile medical treatment i. Nasal inhalation of cocaine j. Manicure/pedicure k. At beauty saloon l. endoscopy m. French kiss n. Any form of body fluid exchange.
The lady patient, who has three healthy and grown up children aged 22, 28 and 32 years, and is herself employed for 34 years at a five-star hotel, denied the possibility of her contracting the virus from any other avenue. Her lawyers asked for Rs19.71 lakh as compensation as cost of damages, compensation, mental agony. The jurisdiction of the Forum is to grant up to Rs20 lakh.
The Forum also pointed out that "the surgery can be performed for removing the uterus from the abdomen of the patient or from the vaginal cavity. In the present case, the said surgery is performed by giving her general anaesthesia & through her vaginal cavity and not from the abdomen, hence the possibility of use of unsterilised equipment or machinery or needles at the time of surgery cannot be fully ignored.’’
The Forum granted her compensation of Rs5 lakh as token compensation for the grave irreversible and irreparable mental agony, life-long restrictions, financial losses, loss of reputation in society and risk to the family members of the patient. It also permitted reimbursement of Rs56,000 spent on the hospital expenses and Rs10,000 as litigation costs by a consumer court. The order was read on 24 April, 2019 in Mumbai.