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Escorts to pay Rs 50,000 for medical negligence

Escorts to pay Rs 50,000 for medical negligence
Taking a tough stand against medical negligence, the apex consumer court has slapped a Rs 50,000 penalty on the Delhi-based Fortis Escorts Heart Institute for an infected blood transfusion that left a patient afflicted with Hepatitis B within weeks of undergoing a bypass surgery in 1995.

‘There is clear nexus between the blood transfusion on Harbans Kaur Chawla during the course of her cardiac surgery at the institute and her contracting Hepatitis B 60 days later,’ National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission president Ashok Bhan and member Vineeta Rai said in a recent ruling.

‘Perhaps, there is a case for hospitals like Escorts Institute, which conduct major surgeries, to seriously consider whether the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test could be replaced by a more reliable (screening) test,’ it said. The bench concluded that there was a link between 69-year-old Chawla’s infection and the surgery at Escorts hospital as ‘she had not undergone any other blood transfusion except at the institute’.

A report from PGI Hospital, Chandigarh, where Chawla went for consultation, confirmed this fact in writing, said the commission. For Chawla and her kin, justice has finally been done - even if it took 17 years and the final compensation amount was a fraction of over Rs 6 lakh that she sought.

The hospital, now known as Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, has the option of moving the Supreme Court for relief against the order of the consumer commission, which has given it time till the first week of November to pay the Rs 50,000 compensation to Chawla.

V R Gupta, medical superintendent of the institute, said, ‘When the commission’s order comes to us, we will see.’ Chawla underwent a bypass surgery at Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre on 30 January 1995, during which four units of blood from the hospital’s blood bank were transfused into her.

By March 1995, it was noted that she had lost her appetite, could not take food and had developed fever along with drowsiness and giddiness. She contacted doctor B S Bhatia at PGI Hospital, Chandigarh. After conducting a series of tests 30 March 1995, he informed her that she had contracted Hepatitis B infection due to transfusion of blood at the time of surgery.

A shocked Chawla underwent treatment for a damaged liver and faulty renal function but could not fully recover from the side effects of Hepatitis B.

She then decided to approach the courts and filed a complaint before the Delhi State Consumer Commission on the grounds of medical negligence and deficiency in service.

She sought a refund of Rs 165,250 spent on the bypass surgery and Rs 25,000 towards expenses incurred for treatment at PGI Hospital, Chandigarh, as well as Rs 5 lakh, along with interest, towards permanent disability.

The state consumer commission backed her and said since PGI Hospital was a government institute and not a competitor of the Escorts Institute, there was no room for doubting the authenticity of the diagnosis by the doctors of the Chandigarh hospital. It directed Escorts Institute to pay Chawla a compensation of Rs 50,000 and said that the doctors who conducted the bypass surgery could not be held guilty of negligence.
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