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Wrong Diagnosis Is Not Medial Negligence- Supreme Court

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed by a man against order of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which dismissed his complaint alleging medical negligence on the part of a hospital in the death of his wife in the matter of Vinod Jain vs SantokbaDurlabhji Memorial Hospital &Anr (Civil Appeal No. 2024 of 2019 Arising out of SLP(C) No.32721/2017, dated February 25, 2019).

The bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul upheld the order of the National Commission which had held that the case “would at best be a case of wrong diagnosis, but not medical negligence”.

In the instant case, Vinod Jain, the Complainant had made various allegations against the hospital/doctor including (a) inappropriate and ineffective medication; (b) failure to restart the cannula for IV medication; (c) premature discharge of the deceased despite her condition warranting treatment in the ICU; (d) oral administration of Polypod antibiotic, despite her critical condition, which actually required intravenous administration of the medicine. On the other hand, the stand of the Doctor was that when the patient was discharged, she was a febrile, her vitals were normal and she was well-hydrated, with no infection in her chest or urinary tract. However, The State Commission allowed his complaint and ordered a compensation of Rs.15 lakh, however, the National Commission had set it aside.

The Supreme Court discussed all the legal principles Bolam Test, Kusum Sharma & Ors. v. Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre and Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab while deciding the case.

According to the Complainant, Vinod Jain, in the early hours on 16.10.2011, the IV cannula stopped functioning and instead of re-cannulating the patient, oral and not IV administration of the antibiotic Cefpodoxime was done, which amounts to medical negligence.The bench of Supreme Court agreed with approach adopted by the National Commission in dealing with this contention and said that the explanation offered by Doctor was that when he attended the patient at 11:00 a.m. on 16.10.2011, he found that the drip 10 had been disconnected, on account of all peripheral veins being blocked due to past chemotherapies, and that the drip had been stopped, the night before itself, at the instance of the Complainant. Taking into consideration the fact that the patient was normal, afebrile, well-hydrated and displayed normal vitals, the oral administration of the tablet was prescribed. This, according to the NCDRC was the professional and medical assessment by Doctor, arrived at on the basis of a medical condition of the patient, and could not constitute medical negligence"

The Supreme Court further said that they agree with the view expressed by the NCDRC that the Doctor, who was expected to bring a reasonable degree of skill, knowledge and care, based on his assessment of the patient, prescribed oral administration of the antibiotic in that scenario, especially on account of the past medical treatments of the wife of the Complainant Vinod Jain, because of which the veins for administration of IV could not be located. Her physical condition was found to be one where the oral administration of the drug was possible.

The Supreme Court held that the approach adopted by the National Commission cannot be said to be faulty, while dealing with the order of the State Commission, which granted damages on a premise that the Doctor could have pursued an alternative mode of treatment.  The Court noted that the Doctor promptly attended the Complainant’s wife and carried out medical procedures based on professional and medical assessment by the Doctor depending upon the medical condition of the patient, and could not constitute medical negligence. The Supreme Court further said that it appreciates the pain of the Complainant, but then, that by itself cannot be a cause for awarding damages for the passing away of his wife.

Divya Patwal


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