Hospitals liable to pay if consulting doctors involved in medical negligence
Shakila Banu, ever since she had a fall seven years ago, used to get back pain while sitting for more than three hours at a stretch. She was under the care of orthopaedic surgeon Dr K Chandran. Shakila was admitted to Padmini Nursing Home in Chennai on October 9, 2003 where Dr Chandran performed a spinal surgery. She was discharged 10 days later on payment of Rs 62,000 hospital bill.
Post surgery, Shakila developed severe problems like lack of urine and motion sensation; over sensitivity to light, sound and smell; inability to sit for more than 30 minutes; inability to walk. She also started getting fits and developed high blood pressure. A month later, she was taken to the hospital for severe fits. Dr Chandran referred her to a psychiatrist who in turn referred her to a neurosurgeon who advised her to be hospitalized at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre. Later, she was advised to go back to Dr Chandran for restoration of bowel movements caused due to the first surgery.
Shakila was then taken to a neurospecialist at Apollo Hospital who went through the medical record and scan reports, and opined that there was negligence in performing the first surgery as the 'S' nerve was cut and the flesh was not properly replaced. Shakila ultimately expired on January 31, 2007.
Shakila's parents filed a complaint before the Chennai District Forum against Padmini Nursing Home and Dr Chandran seeking Rs 20 lakh as compensation for treatment expenses, suffering, and loss of life. United India Insurance which had issued a professional indemnity was also impleaded.
The hospital contended that since Dr Chandran was an independent consultant, it could not be held liable. Dr Chandran contested the case, saying that Shakila's problem had arisen due to a bad fall seven years ago and Shakila had suffered cardiac arrest during surgery, but he saved her life. The doctor denied that 'S' nerve was cut. The forum and later the Tamil Nadu State Commission dismissed the complaint. Shakila's parents then filed a revision petition.
The National Commission observed that Shakila was a 24 years old non-diabetic and non-hypertensive woman. The spinal operation which she had undergone was not categorized as a high risk surgery. Yet she suffered an unexplained cardiac arrest during surgery. When the Commission's queried as to what caused the cardiac arrest, the doctor avoided giving an answer. The doctor attempted to attribute cardiac arrest to failed back syndrome. The National Commission refused to believe this, as no medical literature was produced to substantiate it.
The Commission concluded that there was negligence on the part of Dr Chandran. As regards the hospital's liability, the Commission relied on the Supreme Court ruling in Savita Garg v/s National Heart Institute where it was laid down that a hospital owes a duty to give proper treatment, which may even be delegated to those who are not its employees. So, the hospital was held jointly liable.
By its order of September 1 delivered by M Shreesha, the National Commission awarded Rs10 lakh to be paid jointly and severally, within four weeks, or along with 9% interest, if delayed. Additionally Rs10,000 was awarded as litigation costs.