The national consumer dispute redressal commission (NCDRC) has ordered Indian Spinal Injuries Centre to pay a compensation of Rs15 lakh to the family of one Ajay Kumar Gautham. The medical negligence of the New Delhi-based hospital was the reason for the person's death.
In the order, the bench of presiding member Dr SM Kantikar and member Binoy Kumar says, "We note that the State Commission sought an opinion from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC). The Dean of MAMC constituted the board of medical experts consisting of three experts, namely, Dr Ajay Sharma, HOD (Neurosurgery) GB Pant hospital, Dr JS Dolly (Anesthesia), MAMC, Dr Anjali Prakash (Radio diagnosis), MAMC. The state commission framed certain issues for the opinion. In view of the non-availability of all brain imaging films, no conclusion may be drawn on this point. Whether the deceased should have been operated on or drawn on this point, whether he should have been operated on or treated by conservative therapy, cannot be commented on from the provided hospital records. In absence of any intracranial space-occupying lesion (Intracranial Hematoma), conservative therapy is the standard treatment."
Ajay Kumar was admitted to the hospital as he suffered an accidental fall from a height. He was admitted there on 19 March 2004 at 5.30pm. According to his family, no immediate care was given and he was examined and admitted to ICU only after three-four hours. His family was informed that he had only a minor injury and that the surgery would be done the following day if there was any serious condition.
After that, at 11pm on the same day, Dr Mahajan performed ultrasonography (USG) of the abdomen and thereafter, the patient was examined by Dr VP Bhalla. It was further alleged that in the ICU patient's head was shaved and a tube was put in the neck without informed consent. The patient was not put on the ventilator, nor was given any oxygen. On 20 March 2004, the patient was declared dead at 5:30am.
Being aggrieved of the death due to negligent treatment and lack of care, CR Gautham, the father of Ajay Kumar filed a complaint to the state commission seeking compensation of Rs83 lakh from the hospital.
Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in their written submission, denied medical negligence from their side. The hospital contended that the patient was managed by a team of doctors (surgeon and residents) supported by paramedical staff as per the standard protocol. The relevant investigations were sent and the patient was kept under close monitoring.
The hospital claimed that at the time of admission, he had sustained a serious head injury and was unconscious.
State commission, after perusal of various reports and expert opinion, ordered that the hospital should pay a compensation of Rs15 lakh. Both the hospital and the father of the deceased filed petitions with NCDRC. While the hospital management's petition sought the dismissal of the case, the deceased's father sought to enhance compensation.
The counsel who appeared for the hospital contended that the state commission failed to consider the experts' evidence filed by Dr R Bhatia and Dr Rana Patir. Further, the counsel submitted that the medical board's opinion was inconclusive as the complainants did not intentionally provide the documents.
The counsel for Mr Gautham stated it was a clear medical negligence case. "The patient was taken to the hospital in good faith with the hope that the doctors knew the best and would provide the best treatment," he says.
NCDRC, based on the expert submitted to the state commission by the Maulana Azad Medical College, concluded that there was sheer negligence from the side of the hospital.
"Regarding the alleged delay in the treatment, although the hospital admission record papers mentioned the doctor's observations timed at 9.15pm, but in the absence of the admission record slip, no comments could be made. There is no record to document the fact if the patient was managed in the casualty department before formal admission and what first aid treatment, if any, was given to the deceased. In view of these facts, no further observations regarding this point can be made. Regarding ultrasound examination, in road traffic accidents, to exclude other intra-abdominal injuries, ultrasound examination of the abdomen is undertaken. This cannot be termed as unnecessary. In the absence of complete hospital records, no comments can be made on this point. However, it is mandatory to undertake consent for any procedures to be performed on a patient. Often this is recorded at the time of admission," Dr Kantikar from NCDRC says.
NCDRC also observed that the compensation amount was adequate and the plea to increase compensation from Rs15 lakh to Rs2 crore was turned down.
(First Appeal No41 of 2013 Date: 27 January 2023)