Case Law: Unfair trade practice, reason for diminishing doctor-patient trust

The few bad peas spoil the entire pod, as this case evidently shows.

Dinesh had approached Dr. Geeta with complain of severe pain in the right buttock. The doctor diagnosed cellulitis and prescribed medicines but to no avail. Dinesh visited the doctor again who kept him hospitalized for six days. This is where the problems began, both for Dr. Geeta and Dinesh.

While Dinesh claimed that the doctor gave an estimate of not more than six or seven thousand rupees, he was charged more than thirty five thousand for the stay and treatment. He sued the doctor and complained to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi that the doctor unnecessarily kept him in ICU and charged money for that as well! When he was not satisfied either by the treatment or by the exorbitant amount the doctor charged, he got discharged and visited another hospital where an Ultrasound reported no formation of pus. Why was I kept in the hospital and ICU unnecessarily, questioned Dinesh.

Dr. Geeta was defiant in her defence. She stated that the patient was given an estimate of six or seven thousand rupees per day and not for the entire treatment. She further stated that the patient when the patient didn’t respond to antibiotics, he was admitted to the hospital and treated with hot fermentation and higher antibiotics which were expensive. While the final bill may have been higher than the patient’s expectation, only items that were consumed were added to it, concluded the doctor.

The case had reached the medical board which absolved Dr. Geeta of any negligence. However, the Commission, after perusing the medical records, had a different view.

It was observed that only hot fermentation was given along with higher antibiotics, and since there was no formation of pus, the question of performing surgery did not arise at all. What was then the need to use surgical materials such as blade, cotton pads, micro set, high pressure line, etc., queried the Commission. Moreover, the Commission further queried, since these materials were not used, why was the patient charged for it? The doctor had no answer to it and hence, was ruled negligent for indulging in unfair trade practice. She was also ordered to compensate the patient – a lesson perhaps she would use the right way in her future course of practice.

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