Nearly 24 years after the incident, a metropolitan magistrate on Tuesday convicted noted surgeon and Padma Vibhushan awardee Dr Prafulla Desai of negligence in treating a woman suffering from terminal stomach cancer. The oncologist, however, was sentenced to a day—till the rising of the court on Tuesday itself.
Dr Desai was ordered to pay Rs50,00 to the complainant, retired IAS officer Dr PC Singhi, the husband of the deceased. “I am happy that my fight has finally succeeded. It will send a good message to the whole medical community,” the 84-year-old told HT. However, according to him, the sentence meant nothing.
According to Singhi, Dr Desai decided to perform a surgery on his ailing wife in December 1987, although Dr Earnest Greenberg, a cancer specialist at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital, New York, had advised against any surgical intervention.
Singhi alleged that Dr Desai shirked responsibility when he found Leela’s stomach inoperable and she died in February, 1989. On September 7, 1988 her husband addressed a written complaint to the director general of police. But the Azad Maidan police registered an FIR on May 14, 1991 after the Maharashtra medical council reprimanded Dr Desai for violating medical ethics. Singhi filed a suit seeking a compensation of Rs25 lakh for Dr Desai’s alleged negligence. The case introduced video conferencing in the Indian judicial system. Dr Greenberg’s statement was recorded using video link from New York.