Staff Reporter

Chance to save life lost "due to lethargic attitude"

CHENNAI: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Chennai (south), has ordered a city hospital to pay compensation of Rs. 3 lakh for deficiency in treatment.

In her complaint, R. Vijayalakshmi, a resident of Mylapore, said her 15-year-old son Anand who was suffering from toxic epidermal necrolysis was admitted to Chennai Kaliappa Hospital, Raja Annamalaipuram, on July 11, 2000. Anand was kept in total isolation and doctors believed the boy was suffering from measles or chicken pox. When the boy became delirious, the mother was assured by K. Padmanabhan, managing director of the hospital, that a team of specialists in the field of dermatology, pulmonology and nephrology would visit the patient. But, it turned out to be a false promise.

On the fourth day, after repeated enquiries from the mother, V.R. Janaki, chief of the Dermatology Department of the Government General Hospital, was called to review the boy's condition.

She diagnosed the condition immediately and asked that the boy be admitted to the intensive care unit. As the boy's condition worsened Ms. Vijayalakshmi lost faith in the hospital and Dr. Padmanabhan helped shift Anand to another hospital, where he died on August 2. The complainant, a senior telephone operator in BSNL, said she had, by then, spent Rs. 7 lakh.

The opposite parties said the patient had been under self-medication and the nature of medicines was not known. On preliminary examination it was found that patient was suffering from measles and that they were cautious not to be misled by symptomatic diagnosis. Since the patient was shifted to another hospital and the nature of treatment there was not known the death could have been caused due to further treatment there.

In the order, forum president R. Aparna and member J. Kadirvel concluded that, based on the expert opinion given by Dr. Janaki, there had been deficiency on the part of the hospital. "When the patient had come with body rashes accompanied with severe cough and cold and fever, when the condition of the patient seemed to be deteriorating, the opposite party ought to have called the dermatologist." But the opportunity to save a life was "lost due to the lethargic attitude of the opposite party."

The case of the complainant was established, the forum stated. But it said, "The complainant is not entitled for reimbursement of the amount she spent as she spent the same towards treatment."

Ms. Vijayalakshmi later told The Hindu she would like to donate the compensation to an organisation/institution treating toxic epidermal necrolysis.