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Complaint dismissed against GMCH, cardiologist for patient’s death

Need to establish disregard for life to indict doctor for negligence, says state consumer commission.

punjab Updated: Jul 13, 2018 21:46 IST
Aneesha Bedi
Aneesha Bedi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
GMCH,cardiologist,Government Medical College and Hospital
(Representative Image)

Stating that a doctor was not criminally responsible for a patient’s death unless his “negligence or incompetence showed such disregard for life and safety of others as to amount to a crime,” the state consumer commission here dismissed a complaint of medical negligence against Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh (GMCH), Sector 32, and a cardiologist working there.

Patiala resident Sohan Lal Bansal moved the commission after his wife Baby Rani Bansal, a heart patient, died at GMCH during a procedure. Bansal claimed that Dr Srinavasan Reddy, professor, department of cardiology, GMCH-32, adopted a “wrong line of treatment” and did not perform the procedure correctly.

Bansal told the commission that his wife had a minor breathing problem due to which she got an electrocardiography (a process to record the electrical activity of the heart) done.

After being treated at a private clinic in Patiala in July 2016 she was referred to GMCH where Dr Reddy examined her on July 13 and advised an angiography that revealed blockages in three vessels of her heart to the extent of 70%, 80% and 95%.

When Dr Reddy was asked if bypass surgery was recommended, he said it was a thing of the past and that the patient should get stents and she will be discharged on July 15, the complainant alleged.

But during the procedure, Bansal alleged, he became aware of a “certain abnormal commotion in the operation room”. He was then informed that his wife was in a serious condition as there was water in her lungs and a tube had been inserted.

Bansal requested Dr Reddy to refer the patient to another hospital if he was unable to handle the case, when the doctor then informed him that his wife had died during the procedure.

According to the death summary report submitted by Bansal, his wife would have survived had the procedure been carried out differently.

Denying the allegations, GMCH said the attendants, including Bansal, had been shown images of the patient’s coronary artery blockages on the screen in the lab and in diagram format.

The complainant and his son were informed about the complications, the risk, long-term benefits and adverse effects in detail, and it was only then that Bansal gave his written consent for the procedure.

Dr Reddy submitted that the patient developed pulmonary oedema (fluid in lungs) and hypotension (fall in blood pressure), denying Bansal had requested for a bypass surgery.

“Had it been so, why would he give his consent for stenting, when his son, a qualified doctor, was accompanying him?” the commission was asked.

Referring to a Supreme Court observation in a 2010 case, the commission decided in favour of GMCH and the cardiologist, saying “the degree of negligence required is that it should be gross, and that neither a jury nor a court can transform negligence of a lesser degree into gross negligence merely by giving it that appellation.... There is a difference in kind between the negligence, which gives a right to compensation and the negligence which is a crime.”

Commenting on the commission’s ruling, Dr Neeraj Kumar, president, Indian Medical Association, Chandigarh, said one needed to understand that complications shouldn’t be misunderstood for negligence. “Complications are a part and parcel of medical treatment. Also, if consent is given by the patient or their family for a treatment, it cannot be called negligence later.”

First Published: Jul 13, 2018 14:16 IST