National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: While disposing two first appeals against the order passed by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (‘SCDRC’), Jaipur holding the hospital and doctor liable for medical negligence, the NCDRC Presiding member, Dr. S.M. Kantikar partly allowed both the appeals. The Commission viewed the compensation of Rs 20 lakhs as just and reasonable, and limited the liability of the doctor to the extent of performing LD Flap surgery.

As per the facts, the complainant aged 17 years sustained electric burn injuries in his arms, legs and abdomen due to electrocution. On the day of incident, he first approached another hospital, shifted to the respondent hospital later. He underwent the first operation; the arm was bleeding after the operation due to which, another operation was performed. It has been alleged that negligence on part of the doctor resulted in gangrene which led to amputation of the left arm below elbow, right trans-metatarsal and left symes at another hospital. The patient became completely handicapped and suffered 80% disability which led the complainants to approach the SCDRC.

SCDRC through order dated 23-4-2019 held the hospital and doctor liable for medical negligence and awarded compensation of Rs 25 lakhs with interest and other expenses. Aggrieved by the said order, the present appeals have been filed.

The Commission in the present matter discussed at length the medical technicalities in the complainant’s case. The Commission noted that the first operation was performed on the left hand after confirming satisfactory blood flow to reduce the level of amputation. Persisted oozing of blood followed by transfusion of 14 units of blood, ceased anticoagulants and maintained electrolyte balance as followed by the doctor was the standard line of treatment. The Commission viewed the severity of burns which led to damage resulting in the development of gangrene. The Commission said that the patient sustained heavy electric burn injuries due to which, amputation was inevitable, and that the doctor performed his duty with reasonable care as an Orthopedic.

The Commission observed that the doctor performed LD Flap surgery, which is a specialized procedure, being under the domain of plastic surgeons. The Commission commented that although he acted in the best interest of the patient, he shall not absolve from the liability of omission of seeking a plastic surgeon’s assistance.

The Commission relied on Laxman Balkrishna Joshi (Dr.) v. Dr. Trimbak Bapu Godbole, (1969) 1 SCR 206 for the duties of care owed by a doctor towards his patients, whose breach may give rise to cause of action for negligence. The doctor’s legal obligations to patients have been to decide whether to undertake the case; what treatment to give; and In the administration of that treatment.

The Commission also referred to burn injuries inflicted due to 11000KV and noted through various sources and expert opinion regarding electric burn cases usually suffering from amputation, and that LD Flap can be performed by an experienced Orthopedic Surgeon.

The Commission observed that such high voltage burns affect multi-organ systems, making the treatment exceptionally challenging. The Commission held that the doctor was not liable for the injuries sustained by the patient, but liability limits to the extent of performing LD Flap surgery being an act of omission. The Commission partly allowed both the appeals and held the compensation of Rs 20 lakhs just and liable and directed the respondent hospital and doctor to pay compensation of Rs 20 lakhs to the complainant within 6 weeks. The Commission also directed the insurance company to pay the amount as per the Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy issued to the OPs.

[Dhanvantari Hospital & Research Centre v. Santosh Kumar Sharma, 2023 SCC OnLine NCDRC 78, decided on 3-03-2023]

*Order by: Dr. S.M. Kantikar.

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants/Respondents: Advocate Sanjay Kr. Ghosh, Advocate Rupali S. Ghosh, Advocate Pawan Kr Ray;

For Respondents/Appellants: Advocate Vizzy Agarwal, Advocate Shuchi Singh.

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