Padma Vibhushan awardee and eminent oncologist Dr Prafulla Desai was found guilty of negligence, breach of contract and of causing mental harassment on Friday by the Bombay high court (HC) in a two-decade-old case. He was directed to pay Rs 15 lakh compensation to the victim's family.
The HC passed the landmark order on a suit filed against Desai by former IAS officer Dr PC Singhi in 1989, whereby he sought a compensation of Rs 24 lakh and reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by him on the treatment of his wife Leela, who was admitted to Bombay Hospital on December 22, 1987 after she complained of stomach pain.
Justice Roshan Dalvi directed Desai to pay the compensation amount at the earliest and refused to grant a stay to allow him to appeal against the order.
Desai will have to pay interest at 6% on the compensation amount from 1989 onwards. The court also directed Desai to reimburse the expenditure incurred by the victim on the treatment and pay 16% interest on the same.
According to Singhi's petition, Desai decided to perform surgery on Leela even though Dr Earnest Greenberg, a cancer specialist at the Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York, had strongly advised against any type of surgery when Singhi had consulted him.
Advocate Bharat Joshi, who was appointed by the Maharashtra State Legal Aid Services to represent Singhi, had argued that Leela was admitted to Bombay Hospital under the advice of Desai and as his patient. Desai had argued that Leela was not his patient and he had therefore not breached any contract.
Joshi countered the argument by saying, "Medical reports suggest Dr Desai was in charge and [it was] on his advice [that] Leela had consented to the operation." The court agreed with Joshi's arguments.
On July 5 this year, a metropolitan court had convicted Desai of criminal negligence and had imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him.