A clerical error of using a female form template for a male patient's ultrasound report, followed by medical negligence at a reputed private hospital of the national Capital, left a Delhi-based civil engineer with lasting medical issues and heavy financial setbacks.
Lalit Verma, 42, was awarded compensation early this month after nearly a decade-long legal battle in a consumer court, which held the hospital guilty of neglect.
Verma said he was treated on the basis of a "faulty report" which mentioned female organs such as uterus adnexa, ovary and pouch of Douglas. The heavy dose of medicines thus administered to him, he believes left him with crippling side-effects.
BUSINESS SHUT DUE TO POOR HEALTH
"I have gained much weight and suffer from shortness of breath. Even for minor ailments, I need strong medicines; small doses have no effect on me," Verma told Mail Today.
"I ran a business of greeting cards before the incident but had to shut it down as I was too weak to run it properly. I had to shut down my business and sold two flats to meet the financial needs of my family. I am forced to live in a rented accommodation due to my medical expenses."
The court order has brought some relief to Verma. Coming down heavily on the callousness, the order said that treating a patient without ascertaining cause of ailment with due care speaks volume about the quality of service being provided.
The court directed the appellant to refund an amount of Rs 49,028 with an interest at 12 per cent per annum to the complainant, besides paying Rs 20,000 on account of compensation for mental and physical agony and Rs 10,000 on account of cost of litigation. "It was an error which no doctor of reasonable competence should commit and hence the same comes within the purview of negligence," the court said in its order.
It declared the ultrasound report as faulty for it contained reference to female organs. The counsel of the hospital had submitted that no harm was caused by the error in the transcription of ultrasound report. "The fact that ultrasound report was correct is evident from finding of fatty liver which was found in subsequent ultrasounds also. As complainant did not have fever, no pathological test was necessary at the time of discharge. No kidney stone was visible and in the ultrasound done," the counsel told court.
However, the counsel for Verma, Rajesh Kumar said the doctors did not carry out a fresh ultrasound even after the fault was spotted and his client was given medication for 17 consecutive days that further deteriorated his condition. Kumar said the hospital's explanation that it was the typist's fault could not be used to defend the doctor who signed the report.
VICTORY TASTES BITTER
However the court observed that the hospital had not disclosed when the error was detected and questioned that why no fresh ultrasound was carried out when the defect came to light. "It amounts to fault, imperfection, shortcoming in performance required to be maintained for consideration received," said the order. Calling it an act of negligence, the consumer court asked the hospital authorities to compensate him for the loss. Speaking to Mail Today, Verma said even though he felt vindicated he is still bitter over the fact that for one whole year he remained unhealthy and was forced to discontinue his business due to lack of physical and mental strength.
"Is it not the responsibility of the doctors to ensure that they read the test reports before prescribing and injecting medicines?" he said. "It was very important for me to drag them to court otherwise the doctors would not learn to take the responsibility of their act." He said that what happened to him could have also happened to somebody else and therefore decided to seek legal remedy from the court.