NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION awards Rs 1 crore compensation in a case of “medical negligence”
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi and its gynaecologist Dr Sohini Verma to pay Rs 80 lakh and Rs 20 lakh respectively as compensation to a doctor couple, whose baby suffered mental disability due to “negligence” of the doctor at the time of delivery more than 15 years ago.
The court further imposed punitive cost of Rs 10 lakh on Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals (to be deposited in the Consumer Legal Aid Account, NCDRC) for indulging “in the unethical medical practices and professional misconduct like tampering of medical records”, not issuing entire medical record to the patient, and making “false submission” before the commission.
“The corporate hospitals and specialists, as might be expected, must perform at a higher level than other hospitals / general practitioners. They, after all, represent themselves as possessing highest standard facilities and care; also possess superior skills and additional training. The hospital charges and the doctor’s fees normally reflect this,” a two-member NCDRC bench, comprising of presiding member Justice J M Malik and member Dr S M Kantikar, said in its order dated April 22, 2015.
In its order, the court observed that the patient “unnecessarily suffered during prolonged labour”; there was administration of “excessive Syntocinon which caused birth asphyxia to the baby, who further suffered cerebral palsy and 95% disability”. The child, who underwent treatment for multiple health problems at several hospitals, including AIIMS, died at the age of 12 years, on January 15, 2012.
The court said, “After going through several OBG and Paediatric text books, we are of considered view that, it was the case of excessive use of Syntocinon and delay in decision to perform C-section, which caused birth asphyxia to baby Nistha. In addition there is unflappable evidence that, the medical record of baby and mother are tampered in several places, noted interpolation, pinholes, overwriting the doses of Syntocinon.”
According to the court records, the complainant, Dr Indu Sharma (BAMS) during her first pregnancy, was under observation and follow-up of Dr Sohini Verma at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. Previously, she took treatment from Dr Verma for infertility, thereafter, spontaneously, she got conceived, after four and half years.
On June 10, 1999, after midnight, due to rupture of membranes, she got admitted in Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals for her delivery. “No senior doctor was available at that time, the resident doctor examined her.” In the morning, at around 7 a.m., Dr Verma examined her and advised her medicines, started IV fluid with 1 ampule of Syntocinon (Oxytocin) for speeding up the process of delivery.
But, the patient noticed that the dose was maximum, and the CTG machine showed that the heart rate of the child began to sink (80/min.), during the midnight of 11/12-6-1999. “None attended the patient, immediately.” Thereafter, the patient was shifted to operation theatre at 2 a.m. for emergency caesarean (LSCS), and at 3.36 a.m. a female baby (named ‘Nistha’) was delivered by LSCS, weighing 3.7 kg.
The baby did not cry immediately, after birth and it took almost five minutes. Therefore, it was alleged that, baby suffered birth asphyxia and seizures. The baby was kept on ventilator in NICU. The hospital/doctor assured that all the reports were normal. The condition of baby deteriorated further, till 29.6.1999. The baby was unable to suck milk. Meanwhile, the patient was discharged on 16.6.1999, while the baby was discharged from the hospital, on 30.6.1999. The hospital did not issue entire medical record, CTG graphs etc. The complainant paid approximately Rs 2.5 lakh towards hospitalisation.