CASE LAW: DR. MEENA HARSINGHANI & ANR v. MEDICAL COUNCIL OF INDIA & ORS. (High Court of Delhi W.P. (C) 807/2016 & CM No. 3689/2016)

ORDER DATED: 10.08.2018

The Delhi High Court upheld the Medical Council of India order calling for removal of a gynecologist’s name from the Indian Medical Registrar for 15 days. This came after the Council held her guilty of negligence in providing post-operative care to a patient after childbirth which left her suffering from a permanent paraplegia. The Delhi High Court had upheld the said decision after the doctors challenged the MCI’s order.

The case concerns a patient, who was admitted for childbirth under the care of Dr. Meena Harsinghani, a gynaecologist and obstetrician by profession at Deepak Nursing Home. She was consulting Dr. Meena since her pre-natal period. After examination, the doctor informed the patient that the foetus had passed meconium in the uterus and that could be dangerous, as the foetus could breathe the meconium into his/her lungs. Therefore, she was rushed to the operation theatre in emergency.

As the anesthesiologists on the panel of the nursing home were not available, Dr. Narayan Harsinghani, Dr. Meena’s husband, an anesthesiologist administered anaesthesia in the spine of the patient. The patient delivered the baby without any further complications. However, complained of severe pain in the back and heaviness in the lower part of her body.

She was examined next morning and was advised treatment including steroids and physiotherapy and advised an MRI in case of poor response to the steroids. The MRI showed that she had suffered from an epidural haematoma, a post-spinal anesthesia complications leaving the patient with permanent paraplegia.

Aggrieved with the fact that if the complication had been discovered at an earlier stage, she wouldn’t have suffered the paralysis, the patient filed a Complaint with the DMC alleging that after the delivery of the baby, neither the gynaecologist nor the anesthetist checked her leg movement and sensation to ascertain whether power had come back. She stated that she had severe pain in her spine and thighs but the doctors took it very lightly.

After hearing the complaint, the DMC observed that the treating team failed to assess the gravity of the clinical condition of the Complainant. They concluded that the doctor couple failed to exercise the reasonable degree of skill, knowledge and care, as was expected of an ordinary prudent doctor, in the treatment administered to the patient at the Nursing Home. Accordingly it recommended that the names of the Petitioners be removed from the State Medical Register for a period of 15 days.

In response, the doctors moved to MIC, preferring an appeal against the said order. The Ethics Committee also decided to uphold the decision of DMC in case of Dr. Meena Harsinghani and in case of Dr. Narain Harsinghani, decided to remove the IMR Register for a period of 3 months. The doctors moved to the Delhi High Court against the order, however, considering all the submissions as well as previous orders, the Hon’ble Court found no reason to doubt the finding of the DMC as well as the MCI and stated that the initial period of 12 to 13 hours was crucial and the patient had a better chance of recovery if she was taken to surgery within that period. While disposing the plea, the HC upheld the punitive measure against Dr. Meena, however, set aside the enhancement of punishment in case of Dr. Narain.

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