Madras HC awards Rs. 28 lakh as compensation for death due to medical negligence

02 September, 2016

G. Rukmani died after being in coma for 411 days after being given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen at a government hospital in Madurai.

The Madras High Court Bench here on Thursday directed the State government to pay a compensation of Rs. 28.37 lakh to the family of a woman tailor, G. Rukmani, who died after being in coma for 411 days on account of administration of nitrous oxide instead of oxygen at Kanyakumari Government Medical College Hospital on March 19, 2011.

Allowing a writ petition filed by her husband S. Ganesan in 2013 seeking compensation from the State government, Justice K.K. Sasidharan held that the State was vicariously liable to compensate the petitioner and his two children, aged 19 and 18, since she died after enduring immense pain for months together due to “sheer carelessness and negligence of doctors” and other staff.

“The State has undertaken the solemn duty of providing health care to its citizens. It is a welfare activity undertaken by the Government taking inspiration from the right guaranteed to the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution. The patients are subjecting themselves to the doctors believing that they would do everything to save their lives.

“The doctors have taken oath to render medical assistance to the best of their ability. The society expects them to act with utmost responsibility and commitment and in a highly professional manner while treating patients,” the judge said after sympathising with the victim who, he said, had undergone immense pain and suffering for months together before her death on May 4, 2012.

Pointing out that the woman was 34 years old at the time of her death and earning not less than Rs.12,000 a month, the judge quantified her loss of income to be Rs.21.21 lakh by applying the multiplier method used to quantify loss in motor accident cases. He added another Rs.4 lakh towards non pecuniary damages since the family was denied of her care, attention and companionship.

The medical expenses incurred on her treatment and loss of personal income of the petitioner since he had to take care of his wife during the course of treatment were also ordered to be reimbursed along with interest at the rate of nine per cent from 2011. The judge also gave liberty to the State Government to recover the compensation amount from the doctors and hospital staff concerned.