Commission ruled that 31-year-old had lost her leg due to medical negligence

A 31-year-old woman who lost her leg 13 years ago due to medical negligence is to get compensation of Rs. 20 lakh from a leading hospital. The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) said in an order that the mere consent of her father for amputation would not absolve the hospital of its liability.

K. Geeta Devi, who was 18 when her leg was amputated in 1999, was an athlete. In a fire accident at her residence on October 12, 1999, she sustained 30 percent burn injuries on her face, neck, upper limbs and thighs. She was admitted in Chennai Port Trust Hospital where first aid was given to her. After two hours, she was admitted in Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

At the time of admission, there was no injury on her legs, below the knees. She claimed, due to maltreatment in blood transfusion through her right leg, it became septic and had to be amputated.

Ms. Geeta Devi filed a consumer complaint in 2001 before the SCDRC seeking compensation from the hospital. She said her parents’ request for treatment for certain abnormalities in her leg at an initial stage was ignored. However, at a later stage, doctors said if amputation was not done, it would endanger her life and her father’s consent was obtained for the amputation.

Ms. Geeta Devi contended that there was no necessity for amputation of the leg as no injuries were reported below the knee.

In its version, Apollo Hospitals denied all allegations and explained the efforts taken in the treatment given to her. It contended that everything was explained to her father while obtaining his consent. The complaint was filed after a lapse of a year-and-a-half and it had no basis. Had the right leg not been amputated, it would have been fatal for the patient.

Disposing of her complaint, the Commission’s Bench, headed by its president Justice R. Regupathi and member J.Jayaram, held that the hospital had been ‘seriously remiss in the medical management of the patient.’ Noting that the patient was a burns victim who was confined to bed with no physical activity, the Bench said there was onset of thrombosis and ischaemia. This led to gangrene in the leg.

“Taking no steps to prevent the onset of these conditions and omission to detect/ diagnose the onset of gangrene at initial stage itself, at the earliest point of time and notice the gangrene at advanced stage up to the knee warranting amputation, amount to negligence and deficiency in service on the part of the hospital,” they added.

Considering her loss of amenities in life and marriage prospects and the cost of an artificial limb, the SCDRC held that she was entitled to compensation of Rs. 25 lakh which would be adequate and reasonable. However it awarded Rs. 20 lakh as she had restricted her claim to that amount.

The Commission also directed the hospital to pay the compensation to her with 9 percent interest, from the date of filing complaint in 2001 till realisation, in six weeks.

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