The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Kolkata-based AMRI Hospital and three of its doctors to pay Rs 5.96 crore in compensation to Indian-American doctor Kunal Saha for medical negligence that led to his wife Anuradha's death in 1998.|
This is the highest compensation the apex court has ever ordered in a case relating to medical negligence and Saha said the ruling set vital precedents and would help save lives.
A bench of justices CK Prasad and V Gopala Gowda asked the hospital and the three doctors to pay the amount within eight weeks to Saha, an HIV/AIDS specialist based in Ohio.
After being awarded a far smaller payout by a consumer dispute commission in 2011, Saha had appealed to the apex court seeking greater compensation.
"It's closure of a personal battle for justice for my wife," Saha told AFP, saying the payout would help inflate awards by lower courts and act as a deterrent to doctors and hospitals. "The purpose was served. The medical community in India will sit up and the courts will have to think."
Saha launched a fight against medical negligence after Anuradha's death and campaigns for patient rights in India, which has a booming medical tourism industry that sees hundreds of thousands of foreigners travel for cheap surgery.
Anuradha, a child psychologist, had come to Kolkata in March 1998. She complained of skin rashes on April 25 and consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, who, without prescribing any medicine, asked her to rest.
The rashes reappeared aggressively on May 7, following which Mukherjee prescribed Depomedrol injections (80 mg) twice daily, a step that was later faulted by experts.
After administration of the injections, Anuradha's condition worsened and she was admitted at the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital on May 11 under Mukherjee's supervision.
Her condition worsened and she was flown to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, where she was found to be suffering from Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare and deadly skin disease.
Anuradha, 29, died there on May 28.
A representative of AMRI Hospital declined to comment, saying the court order was yet to reach them.
In 2009, the SC had found the AMRI Hospital guilty of medical negligence and referred the case to the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, which fixed the compensation amount at Rs 1.7 crore.
Saha, however, had moved the SC claiming a compensation of Rs 200 crore.
In its order, the court said of the total compensation amount, Dr Balram Prasad and Dr Sukumar Mukherjee would pay Rs 10 lakh each and Dr Baidyanath Halder will have to pay Rs 5 lakh.
The rest of the amount will be paid by the hospital.
One of the four treating doctors, Abani Roychowdhury, died during the pendency of case.
With inputs from Agencies