Kolkata: The West Bengal Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has held a city-based private hospital and its senior cardiologist guilty of botched informed consent leading to the death of a patient, and ordered it to pay a compensation of Rs 3 lakh in addition to Rs 25,000 as litigation fee to the deceased's kin.
The Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) and senior cardiologist J. Naik, working for the hospital in 2009, were found guilty of medical negligence and mismanagement, in a case of follow-up coronary angiogram (CAG), leading to the death of a retired Commander of the Indian Air Force, Robin Verma.
The top consumer court ruled that there was "deficiency in service and negligence" on the part of the institute and the doctor.
The complaint was lodged by the deceased's daughter Jayeeta Verma Sarkar. She had claimed Rs 85 lakh for "gross negligence" by the hospital in treating the patient, resulting in his "death", and penal damages of Rs 10 lakh.
The court noted the complainant is entitled to get the compensation of Rs 3 lakh and a litigation cost of Rs 25,000 within 45 days from the date of the ruling, failing which 9 per cent interest would be added to the amount.
Verma was suffering from heart disease. He developed some respiratory problem and chest discomfort and underwent treatment at two other hospitals before being admitted to RNTIICS for CAG.
The court agreed that in the consent form at RNTIICS the columns for 'patient's signature', 'date', 'time' have been left blank.
"There is signature of the complainant being the daughter of the patient. There is no signature of the doctor although it is the duty of the doctor or any of the members of the surgical team to explain the risk factor to the patient."
The opposing parties contented that the risk factors were explained to the patient in details, but, the final court order said, from the consent form there is no mention that the doctor or any member of the surgical team explained the risk factors to the patient.
"Moreover, the condition of the patient started deteriorating after CAG from 5.20 p.m. and at 7.30 p.m. the patient expired. It indicates that the post-CAG complications could not be managed by the OP doctor," the court said.
According to Kunal Saha, a US-based doctor and activist against medical malpractice, the judgment will have significant impact on the issue of informed consent which is a mandatory requirement for all doctors before performing any medical or surgical procedure.
According to a top official of RNTIICS, the intentions of the institute and doctors are always to keep the patient hale and hearty but the outcomes are not always in their hands.
"The outcome was not as desired but that doesn't mean we did not do the right thing. We rendered the treatment that was necessary. The proper consents were taken. The court has ordered a compensation of Rs 3 lakh against the claims of Rs 95 lakh. The judgement is based on the clinical outcome. The judgement is partial in the sense they wanted to close the case as a balancing judgement," an official told IANS requesting anonymity.