The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has recently in a matter of Pankaj R. Toprani and 3 others vs. Bombay Hospital and Research and Medical and 2 others passed a Judgment dated 04-07-2019, whereby the NCDRC held the doctor and hospital liable for post-surgery negligence and further held that the duty of care of doctors and hospitals towards their patients does not end with surgery.
In this case, the doctors of the Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre of the Bombay Hospital Trust had performed a surgery on a 73-year old patient (Patient) for Carcinoma of the Sigmoid Colon, after having gone through his medical history of urticaria, glaucoma tension in the eyes, chronic depression, etc (Operation). After the Operation was performed, the family members of the Patient were informed that the Operation was successful and that they would transfer him to the ward. But instead of doing so, they transferred the Patient to post-operative ICU on third floor for keeping him under observation. The following day the Patient had complained of lack of sleep and pain in the abdomen, throat pain, breathlessness, chocking sensation and suddenly had convulsions. The family members of the Patient were then informed that he had suffered a Bradycardia Attack, which is said to be a condition wherein an individual’s heart rate goes low as much as under 60 beats per minute, as a result of which the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. After a few hours the Patient was transferred to the ICU on twelfth floor of another building stating that it had better equipments. Thereafter, when the Complainants did not give permission for a CT Scan to be performed on the Patient on the grounds that he was in a state of convulsions, he was transferred back to the ward in an unconscious state and later on taken back home in the same vegetative state, where eventually he passed away.
The NCDRC has held the doctors and the Hospital liable on the following grounds:
- That there was an unexplained delay of 2 ½ hours in shifting the Patient, who was not in a stable condition, from post-operative ICU on third floor of one building to another ICU on twelfth floor of another building. That the doctors and the Hospital should have taken due care and caution in shifting the Patient who had already suffered Bradycardia Attack. As a result of this negligence, the Patient slipped into coma and remained in a vegetative state for a period of almost three years and eventually, passed away.
- Having regard to a number of Supreme Court Cases, the NCDRC herein has held that the duty of care of a medical professional, who possesses a certain degree of skill and knowledge, starts from the time the patient gives an implied consent for his treatment and the medical professional accepts him as a patient for treatment with a reasonable degree of skill, care, and knowledge, and extends beyond surgery.
Thus, the NCDRC held the concerned doctors and the Hospital liable for negligence in the treatment rendered to the Patient after the Operation was performed, on the ground that the duty of care of a doctor and a hospital extends to taking proper care of a patient, post-surgery. The NCDRC herein directed the Hospital to pay Rs. 30,00,000/- and the Doctors to jointly and severally pay Rs. 1,00,000/- as compensation to the family members of the deceased Patient.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer