A simple medical procedure cost Najafgarh resident Kamla Devi her life. In July 2014, she went to a CGHS clinic for her monthly dose of insulin. She also mentioned spotting a little blood in her stool and was told to undergo colonoscopy, a procedure in which a flexible tube is used to look at the inner lining of the large intestine.
“She had spotted a little blood in her stool about a month back. It happens to everyone, so I did not think that she needed the test. But since the doctors insisted, we got a date for the procedure at Safdarjung Hospital,” said her son Sanjay Kumar. After the procedure at Safdarjung Hospital, she started complaining of pain and swelling in the abdomen. She was repeatedly told that it was due to gas and was finally diagnosed with septicemic shock at Rockland hospital. A surgery followed at Apollo hospital where a perforation in the colon was detected and 1.8 litres of pus was drained from her body. She died of septic shock and multi-organ failure.
A minor oversight, wrong decision or negligence can cost a patient’s life. When a procedure ends in death due to medical error, the aggrieved family feels doubly duped. They want to be compensated for the trauma, financial losses and the breach of faith by the doctors and hospitals.
KNOW YOUR DOCTOR AND TAKE SECOND OPINION
The order says that the doctors who performed the procedure on his wife at Safdarjung Hospital were not even registered with the Delhi Medical Council (DMC). Doctors are not allowed to practise medicine without registering with the respective state medical council. Although the DMC could not trace the doctors from Safdarjung, it ordered to remove Dr Charu Goel, the treating doctor at Rockland hospital, from the state medical register for a period of 15 days. In a revised order, she was let off with a warning and 12 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) to improve her medical skills. Safdarjung declined to comment, citing that it had not received the DMC order, which was dated March 8, 2016. Rockland hospital authorities did not respond to repeated attempts to get a response.
Experts say patients going in for a procedure should try to check the credentials of the operating doctor and seek a second opinion. It will help them assess if the procedure being advised is the best option available.
“... patients seek second opinion for minor complaints like fever not settling in 2-3 days and they never seek in major issues like before going to surgery, or dealing with the chronic disease which have impact on life... Make people aware that second opinion is their right and they should seek it as early as possible... We see complaints of negligence day in and day out but most of them are because of quack menace, qualified doctors hardly do that, I request people to verify the degree and registration of the treating doctor,” says Dr Amit Agrawal, consultant pediatric nephrologist, Batra Hospital and Medical Research Center.
Rights of patients
- Right to know all the facts about the illness, to have the medical records explained and to be made aware of risks and side effects, if any, of treatment prescribed.
- Right to confidentiality about their illness.
- Right to get their case reports upon request.
- Right to know his/her doctorsâ€™ qualifications.
- Right to informed consent. In case a patient is unconscious or not in a condition to understand information provided by the doctor, the nearest relative has to be informed about the benefits, risks and side effects of a treatment for consent.
- Right to second opinion if the patient has a doubt regarding the treatment prescribed.
Right to be handled with consideration and with regard for his/her modesty during physical examination.
ASK FOR THE CASE SUMMARY
Kamla Devi’s doctor repeatedly told her that gas in her intestines was causing the pain whereas it was due to perforation in the colon. “We took her to the Emergency room at Safdarjung Hospital, but no one came to check her condition. One doctor from the surgery department gave first-aid and asked us to go home,” said Kumar.
Dr Arun Gupta, president of the Delhi Medical Council, says while running between hospitals and seeking a second opinion, patients should remember to ask for a case summary from the hospital. This will help them understand the line of medication followed by and detect any discrepancies.
“If a person suspects foul play, they must ask the hospital to provide the patient case file. The file records all the treatment given to the patient and might help to make a stronger case. The hospitals are supposed to provide the records within 72 hours,” Dr Gupta said.