New Delhi, Oct 21: Awarding a record compensation in a medical negligence case, the country's apex consumer panel has directed that a US-based Indian origin doctor be paid Rs 1.73 crore for the death of his wife who had undergone treatment at a prominent hospital in Kolkata in 1998.
The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission asked three Kolkata doctors and the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute to share the compensation to be paid to Kunal Saha.
An NCDRC bench of Justice R C Jain fixed the compensation on a direction by the Supreme Court, which had referred Saha's appeal to it while holding the three doctors and the hospital culpable to civil liability for medical negligence which had led to the death of his wife Anuradha, herself a child psychologist, in 1998, when she was in the city on a summer vacation.
The apex court had asked the NCDRC to determine the compensation amount for Saha, who is working as an HIV+ AIDS researcher.
The Supreme Court, in May 2009, had awarded the highest ever compensation of Rs one crore to a wheelchair-bound Infosys engineer Prashant S Dhananka for medical negligence in a surgery by Hyderabad's Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) which damaged his spinal chord. He died in June this year.
While pegging the compensation due to Saha for his wife's death at Rs 1,72,87,500, the NCDRC also held the US doctor responsible for contributing to the negligence committed by the three Kolkata doctors and the hospital and ordered 10 per cent deduction in the amount of compensation.
Out of the remaining Rs 1.55 crore compensation, the NCDRC ordered a further deduction of nearly 26 lakh, which Saha had given up against a fourth doctor, involved in treating his wife but who had died later.
The NCDRC also awarded Saha litigation cost of Rs 5 lakh, bringing the effective compensation to nearly Rs 1.35 crore.
Married to Ohio-based Saha, Anuradha had come to her home town Kolkata in March 1998 on a vacation. She complained of skin rashes on April 25 and consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, who, without prescribing any medicine, simply asked her to take rest.
As rashes reappeared more aggressively on May 7, Dr Mukherjee prescribed Depomedrol injection 80 mg twice daily, a step which was later faulted by experts at the apex court.
After administration of the injection, Anuradha's condition deteriorated rapidly during the next few days after which she had to be admitted at AMRI on May 11 under Dr Mukherjee's supervision.
The other doctors involved in her treatment included Dr Baidyanath Halder, Dr Abani Roy Chowdhury and Dr Balram Prasad. As Anuradha's condition failed to improve, she was flown to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, where she was found to be suffering from a rare and deadly skin disease, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). She died on May 28 there.
Dr Saha had then filed a criminal as well as civil case against the doctors and the hospitals on the ground that they were grossly negligent in her treatment leading to her death.
The Supreme Court eventually in 2009 absolved the doctors and hospital of criminal liability for medical negligence, it held them culpable of civil liabilities and referred Saha's plea for compensation under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act to NCDRC, which had in 2006 dismissed the same.
Saha had demanded a record compensation of over Rs 77 crore from NCDRC.
While determining the compensation to Saha, the NCDRC applied the principle of determining the same for road mishap victims and said the compensation amount would be shared among the three Kolkata doctors and AMRI hospital.
The NCDRC stipulated that AMRI and its doctor Sukumar Mukherjee would pay Rs 40.40 lakh each to Dr Saha, while two other doctors, B.Haldar and Balram Prasad, involved in treating Anuradha, would pay Rs 26.93 each to him "The most intriguing task for us is to apportion the liability to pay the awarded amount of compensation among the opposite parties (hospital and three doctors).
No straight jacket formula exists or perhaps can be laid down in a case where so many doctors and hospitals are found negligent in the treatment of patient," the NCDRC said while fixing amounts of compensation to be paid by various doctors and hospitals.
"The parties are directed to pay the aforesaid amounts to the complainant within a period of eight weeks from the date of this order, failing which the amount shall carry interest at the rate of 12 per cent," the bench said.
The bench, in its judgement, said the foreign residence of the victim and income of the deceased are relevant but the compensation awarded by Indian fora cannot be at par with those ordinarily granted by foreign courts in such cases.
"Socio economic conditions prevalent in this country and that of the defendants are relevant and must be taken into consideration so as to modulate the relief. A complainant cannot be allowed to get undue enrichment by making a fortune out of a misfortune," the bench said. PTI