In the highest ever compensation awarded in a medical negligence case, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked Kolkata-based AMRI Hospital and three doctors to pay a whopping Rs 5.96 crore along with interest to a US-based Indian-origin doctor who lost his 29-year-old child psychologist wife during their visit to India in 1998.
A bench of justices C K Prasad and V Gopala Gowda raised the compensation amount of Rs 1.73 crore, awarded by the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in 2011, to Rs 5.96 crore to Kunal Saha, an AIDS researcher in Ohio, and asked the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) and the doctors to pay the amount within eight weeks along with interest at the rate of 6 per cent from the date of filing of the case in 1999.
Terming the verdict as “historic”, Dr. Saha in an email from the US said,”this will have a major impact on medical negligence and standard of medical care in India".
He said, “This will send a strong message to all negligent doctors and unscrupulous hospitals that are reaping(sic) innocent patients everyday across India.”
In May 2009, the apex court had awarded a record compensation of Rs one crore to wheelchair-bound Infosys engineer Prashant S Dhananka for medical negligence in a surgery by Hyderabad’s Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) which damaged his spinal chord. He died in 2011.
The apex court, in its common judgement, partly allowed the appeals of Saha, who had sought enhancement of compensation, and three senior Kolkata-based doctors, Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, Dr B N Halder and Dr Balram Prasad.
NCDRC, in its judgement, had said AMRI and Dr Mukherjee would pay Rs 40.4 lakh each to Saha, while two other doctors, Halder and Prasad, would pay Rs 26.93 lakh each to him.
The apex court said out of the total amount, Dr Balram Prasad and Dr Sukumar Mukherjee will pay Rs 10 lakh each and Dr Baidyanath Halder will have to pay Rs five lakh to Saha within eight weeks.
One of the four treating doctors, Abani Roychowdhury, died during the pendency of case.
The rest of the amount, along with the interest, will be paid by the hospital, it said, adding that a compliance report be filed before it after the payment of the compensation.
Anuradha, a child psychologist, had come to her home town Kolkata in March 1998 on a summer vacation. She had complained of skin rashes on April 25 and died there on May 28, 1998.
Earlier, NCDRC had fixed the compensation on a direction by the apex court, which had referred Saha’s appeal to it while holding the three doctors and the hospital culpable to civil liability for medical negligence which had led to the death of Anuradha.
Dr. Saha, in his plea before NCDRC, had demanded a record Rs 77 crore as compensation.
Anuradha complained of skin rashes and on April 25, had consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, who, without prescribing any medicine, simply asked her to take rest.
As rashes reappeared more aggressively on May 7, 1998, Dr Mukherjee prescribed Depomedrol injection 80 mg twice daily, a step which was later faulted by experts at the apex court.
After administration of the injection, Anuradha’s condition deteriorated rapidly following which she had to be admitted at AMRI on May 11 under Dr Mukherjee’s supervision.
As Anuradha’s condition failed to improve, she was flown to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, where she was found to be suffering from a rare and deadly skin disease -- Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). She died there on May 28, 1998.
Dr. Saha had then filed a criminal as well as civil case against the doctors and both the hospitals on the ground that they were grossly negligent in her treatment leading to her death.
In 2009, though the apex court absolved the doctors and the hospitals of criminal liability for medical negligence, it had held them culpable of civil liabilities and referred Saha’s plea for compensation under provisions of the Consumer Protection Act to NCDRC, which, had in 2006, dismissed, the case.
After the NCDRC judgement, Saha had again moved the apex court and the three doctors had also filed an appeal before it.