January 21, 2020
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Hope On The Horizon

The SC brings solace to those seeking redressal in medical cases

Hope On The Horizon
  • Balbir Singh Makol vs Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, Dr J.S. Makhani, Dr K.L. Kalra and Dr M.P. Singh. Filed in 1992 following the death of Makol's son Manpreet in 1990, after leg amputation in 1989. Claim: Rs 50 crore.

  • J.S. Jadav vs Dr Anand Pandit and Dr Aruna Saghvi, Manorama Ogale Memorial Hospital and Prayag Hospital, both in Pune. Filed on December 12, 1995 after his 15-year-old son Vishal died following fever and vomit -ing on November 10. Claim: Rs 1.5 crore.

  • Aruna Trikha vs Sehra Medical Centre and Dr Devender Sehra, Delhi. Filed in 1992 for loss of vision following wrong diagnosis and treatment. Claim: Rs 46.29 lakh.

  •  Harjot Ahluwalia (minor) vs Spring Meadows Hospital, Delhi, and nurse Bina Mathew. Filed in 1994 for irreversible brain damage caused by large and sudden dose of wrong medicine. Claim: Rs 28 lakh.

These are some of the biggest compensation claims under the Consumer Protection Act (1986) among the 70-odd cases pending before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) and likely to be taken up following the Supreme Court's ruling on November 13, bringing doctors and medical services under the purview of the act. But it may be a while before these cases get moving as 28 such cases before the national and state commissions have been stayed by the Delhi High Court and referred to its full-bench.

Being the highest consumer court, the NCDRC admits only those cases with claims worth Rs 20 lakh and above. Claims below Rs 20 lakh go to state commissions and those below Rs 5 lakh to district commissions. So far, the highest claim against a doctor and/or hospital is a whopping Rs 50 crore, filed by Balbir Singh Makol against Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH), its former consultant Dr J.S. Makhani and two other doctors whom he accuses of having "killed" his 18-year-old son Manpreet to "make money". The defendants deny the charge. While SGRH claims there is no legal case against it as Manpreet was admitted as Dr Makhani's "private patient", the doctor himself refutes all the charges as "false, defamatory and scandalous".

In 1989, Manpreet was diagnosed as having a malignant tumour in one leg at PGI Hospital, Chandigarh. However, Dr M.P. Singh, who advised open biopsy and thigh amputation, referred him to his "elder brother" Dr Makhani at SGRH, Delhi. The latter allegedly rejected the PGI diagnosis and performed a bone grafting surgery on July 27, 1989, without waiting for the biopsy report. He recommended a second grafting and finally amputated the leg on October 26. Manpreet died in August 1990.

Makol cited the opinions of other doctors, including specialists at the Tata Cancer Institute in Bombay, to support his claim that had the amputation been carried out as suggested by PGI, Manpreet would have lived. The bone grafting was unwarranted. He pledges to set up a cancer hospital in his son's memory with the Rs 50-crore compensation. SGRH and the doctors have sought to reject the claim since Manpreet died 10 months after the operation.

J.S. Jadav's is the latest claim to be filed before the NCDRC, and probably the first since the apex court's ruling. On November 8, his son 15-year-old Vishal Jadav came down with fever, headache and vomiting while on holiday in Pune. He died two days later. On December 12, Jadav, a Bombay lawyer, sued the two doctors and the two nursing homes his son was admitted to, for Rs 1.50 crore in the NCDRC.

He claims the doctors changed their diagnosis thrice—from typhoid to acute gastritis to cerebral malaria—and wrongly administered intravenous drip and injections which caused cerebral haemorrhage leading to his son's death. Jadav alleges the diagnoses were reached "without any basis" and the drugs were not only unnecessary but fatal.

Among the most gut-wrenching cases is that of four-year-old Harjot Ahluwalia who, through his parents, has sought Rs 28 lakh as damages from Spring Meadows Hospital, Delhi, for causing irreversible brain damage. Harjot was admitted to the hospital in December 1994 and diagnosed for typhoid. On December 31, a day before he was to be discharged, a nurse administered one ampule of chloroquine in one go without conducting a test dose first. The medicine was prescribed by the hospital doctors. Harjot collapsed immediately.

What followed was worse. The doctors could not find an oxygen cylinder and put him on a manual respirator. Subsequently, his parents were told to take him to a hospital with an auto respirator. Harjot was taken to AIIMS where his parents were told that even if Harjot survived, he would remain a vegetable for life. The reasons: he was injected the wrong medicine—chloro-quine instead of chlorophenicol. Also, the medicine was given at one go instead of being given slowly through a drip and he was kept inappropriately on a manual respirator. There is no known cure for brain damage due to chloroquine poisoning.

While the personal loss to the Ahluwalia, Jadav and Makol families is irreversible, the Supreme Court has given them the hope that their complaints will be heard and redressed speedily.

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