High Court absolves feted oncologist Dr Desai of negligence charges
15 October, 2014
By Sharmeen Hakim Indorewala, Mumbai Mirror | Oct 15, 2014, 03.28 AM IST
The doctor had earlier been asked to pay Rs 15 lakh as compensation for endangering a cancer patient's life.
A division bench of the Bombay High Court (HC) on Monday set aside a prior order passed by the HC and absolved renowned oncologist Dr. Prafulla Desai of charges of medical negligence in a 26-year-old case.
The HC in 2011 had directed Dr Desai, a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, to pay Rs 15 lakh as compensation to former IAS officer PC Singhi for being negligent while treating Singhi's wife, Leela, who was diagnosed with cancer. While setting aside this order, the HC has directed Dr Desai to pay Singhi Rs 1 lakh to cover legal expenses.
The court held that no doctor-patient relationship existed between the oncologist and Leela, who was being treated by Dr Desai's assistant surgeon, A K Mukherjee.
A division bench of Justice A S Chandurkar and A S Oka observed that despite the IAS officer's wife being admitted under Dr Desai's name, the officer himself had accepted that he had met the oncologist only after his wife was received at Bombay Hospital for surgery.
"There is no evidence of any loss suffered by them or by the deceased due to the failure of the Appellant (Dr Desai) to operate upon the deceased," the judges observed, adding that negligence occurred, if at all, to the extent that Dr Desai failed to check up on the patient while the procedure was being performed.
Singhi, 86, a former bureaucrat, launched the legal battle after he lost his wife Leela to cancer in 1989 - she was admitted to Bombay Hospital with Dr Desai's approval. A surgical procedure performed by the oncologist's assistant, Dr Mukherjee, was aborted in December 1987, almost soon after it began, as the doctors determined that it was unsuited to her condition.
Singhi accused Dr Desai of endangering his wife's life. He charged that the doctor ignored opinions of two US doctors and advised surgery, which he claimed left her in much pain.
Last year the Supreme Court absolved Dr Desai of criminal negligence charges.
"Judge did not accept the case of the Appellant(Desai) that the deceased was a patient of the assistant surgeon A K Mukherjee and that Desai was merely called upon to examine the deceased and advise." The judges further observed.