Supreme Court notice to MCI, governor on medical negligence

19 August, 2016

In a development that is likely to impact the treatment of critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICUs) and critical care units (CCUs) in private and government hospitals and nursing homes across India, the Supreme Court has sought the response of the Medical Council of India on guidelines to prevent medical negligence, as well as on informing attendants about the treatment being provided to patients.

Enlarging the scope of an appeal, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Uday Lalit also issued a notice seeking the response of the Union health secretary and health secretaries of all the states in the matter. The apex court has sought the response in six weeks.

Asit Mondal, a retired man from a lower middle-class family, had alleged that his daughter-in-law, Sunanda Mondal, died following a caesarean delivery due to gross medical negligence by Dr Rita Sinha at her Wellcare Nursing Home in Kalyani, West Bengal. It was alleged that Sunanda Mondal was kept for three days in the nursing home after the caesarean delivery with absolutely no attention to her critical condition. When the patient became almost moribund, she was transferred to Medical Super Speciality Hospital in Kolkata where she eventually died on December 29, 2013, from acute liver failure.

The victim’s family lodged a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in New Delhi seeking a damage of Rs 2 crore from Dr Sinha and her nursing home, but the complaint was dismissed. The present appeal is against that order.

Counsel for the appellant informed the Bench of Justice Misra that medical negligence is routine in a number of private hospitals as the families of patients are kept in the dark and there is no check on it. It was urged that in this case, the treating physician should have asked for a Liver Function Test (LFT) as that was absolutely necessary. But the test was not done, which demonstrates gross negligence.

He urged that neither the Union of India nor the Medical Council of India nor the state governments have prescribed any guidelines for the treatment of patients in ICUs or CCUs, nor is there any set procedure about the information that is to be given to families about the patient’s condition and the treatment being given. That apart, there is no proper care at the stage of operation or post-operational stage.

The Bench in its order said: “In view of these submissions, we are inclined to issue notice to the Union of India, the Medical Council of India and to all the State Governments represented by the health secretaries.” The Bench directed the matter to be listed in the first week of October.