NRI takes medical negligence to SC

An NRI scientist based in US launched his fight against medical negligence after his wife died in a Kolkata hospital.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2005 12:30 IST

In a crusade against medical negligence, an NRI scientist based in the US has challenged the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court for "shielding doctors accused of medical negligence".

Kunal Saha, a noted AIDS vaccine researcher at the Children's Hospital and Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio, launched his fight against medical negligence after his wife died in a city hospital in 1998.

And in the past seven years, his case has gone from the lowest to the highest courts in India. But now the Supreme Court is set to start final hearing in the case in February.

The case came on a writ petition challenging West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's statement in July that doctors could not be arrested without prior approval of a medical committee in cases of alleged negligence.

The lawsuit was filed in July by People for Better Treatment (PBT), an organisation set up by Saha and comprising doctors and other professionals.

"Rather than trying to bring justice to the defenceless victims of medical malpractices, the chief minister issued a directive not to arrest and charge any errant doctor under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) without the prior approval of a special 'medical committee'," Saha said.

"The constitution does not give a chief minister the right to provide immunity against IPC to members of a particular profession. Our petition highlights the issue," said Saha.

"Seven years ago, on May 28, a young life (his wife Anuradha, a child psychologist) was needlessly lost due to blatantly wrong therapy by several so-called 'eminent' doctors in the city.

Saha later formed PBT to make his crusade into a mass movement.

He has filed cases against three doctors and the AMRI hospital where Anuradha was treated before being shifted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai where she died from the TEN (Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis) syndrome.

Besides, Saha had also filed a whopping Rs 770 million compensation case at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NDCRC) in New Delhi against the hospital.

Saha, who has left for the US, will be back in India later this month when the NDCRC case comes up between Nov 16 and 18. He has pledged to donate the entire money towards betterment of healthcare in India if he wins the case.

Saha also accused the Indian Medical Association (IMA) of misinterpreting earlier judgments of the Supreme Court.

"The association claims that the apex court had barred police from arresting doctors for criminal negligence. On the contrary, the court had categorically ruled that the internationally-accepted Bolam principle would be followed by our judiciary as well."

The Bolam principle states that a doctor can be charged with "criminal negligence" if he acts in a manner not followed by other "responsible" medical bodies and if the treatment results in a loss of life.

First Published: Nov 03, 2005 11:25 IST