India's apex consumer court has awarded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to a woman who had been a victim of medical negligence during surgery which resulted in an eye injury more than 15 years ago.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ruled in favour of Parvatiben Bhimjibhai Rathod, a resident of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, and said that doctor Shivkumar Chandra Shekhar was negligent during the cataract operation on her left eye that caused irreversible damage.
The doctor of the Bhajrangdas Hospital in Bhavnagar blamed the patient and alleged that it was due to her mistake that there was movement of her head and hand during the administration of an anaesthesia injection. The commission rejected the plea.
The case had reached the national commission as an appeal filed by Rathod against the Gujarat State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's move to reverse the district forum's decision in her favour and let off the doctor and the hospital.
The national commission said: "The state commission apparently erred while treating it as 'an unfortunate accident' for which it did not hold the doctor as being negligent or deficient in service while dismissing the complaint. We are of the considered view that the finding returned by the district forum was fair and just and hence confirm the same..."
The apex consumer court directed the doctor to pay the patient Rs.25,000 as compensation with annual interest of six percent from 1997. The doctor and the hospital have the option of appealing against the judgment in the Supreme Court.
During the hearing, the national commission appointed advocate Surekha Raman as amicus curiae to assist it in the case. She disagreed with the state commission's decision and said that it should not have overturned the district forum's verdict in favour of Rathod.
She said that as a professional engaged in eye surgery, the doctor should have made sure that the hands and the head of the patient were held by the attending staff present in the operation theatre, particularly when repeated attempts were made by him for administering the injection.
The negligence was writ large and no further expert opinion was required in the matter to prove this on the part of the doctor and the hospital, Raman told the national commission.
The doctor contended that at worst, it could be regarded as a case of contributory negligence for which he could not be held liable for compensation while discharging his professional functions to the best of his capabilities.
He said that there was no merit in the revision petition filed by Rathod against the state commission's verdict in his favour.
Rathod said soon after the operation went awry, she was taken to civil hospital in Ahmedabad but a doctor there informed her that due to the serious mistake of the doctor, the damage to her eye could not be reversed.
She said in her complaint that there was carelessness on the part of the doctor in administering the anaesthesia injection which damaged her eye and sought compensation for deficiency in service. The district forum ruled in her favour in February 2002.