An Indian consumer panel has held that it is the hospital that is liable to pay up victims of medical negligence and not the treating doctors.
Unless the patient directly hires the services of a particular doctor, the onus of settling damages arising out of a lawsuit will not fall on the doctor, the Delhi Consumer commission said while ordering Apollo Hospitals to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for failing to perform a laparoscopic surgery properly.
In India the Consumer Commissions are quasi-judicial fora and their decisions are judicially enforceable.
Delivery the judgment of the Delhi Commission, Justice J D Kapoor said: "Whenever a patient lands in any hospital, nursing home or medical centre, he is directly availing of the services of the said hospital...and not the treating doctor. Hence, if the patient suffers due to medical negligence or carelessness of the doctor, the liability will fall on the hospital."
The complaint filed by a patient, Mohammed Azmal, claimed that he was admitted to the hospital in 1996 because of stomach pain. He was diagnosed with gallstones and told by the doctors that the gall bladder was to be removed through laparoscopy. Azmal agreed to undergo the procedure for a package deal of Rs 37,500.
But the doctor botched the keyhole surgery. An endoscopy report after the operation revealed a duct that was not sealed properly and resulted in accumulation of fluid in the stomach. Three more operations had to be performed on the patient whose condition had become critical. This raised the bill to almost Rs 1.6 lakh.
In its defence, the hospital pleaded that the consulting doctor was not an employee of the hospital and the hospital was not responsible for any alleged negligence or deficiency in service in diagnosing and giving treatment on the part of the consultant doctor. It also pleaded the ailment required close investigation and detailed enquiry, hence there was no question of a package scheme.
The hospital added the complainant was told that his gall bladder was inflamed due to a stone and therefore the lap chole method (laparascopic removal of the gall bladder) may not be feasible and conventional surgery would have to be done.
But the Consumer Commission rejected such arguments as unacceptable.