Eight years ago, in July 2010, Chitra Illango, an employee of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, was admitted to Sri Ramakrishna Hospital for minor hernia surgery.
As a routine procedure before the surgery, she had to undergo a coronary angiogram. During the procedure, the catheter inserted into her body broke into three pieces, which were lodged near her three vital arteries, obstructing the blood flow.
While this was caused by an error on the part of the doctor conducting the procedure, Chitra was made to pay a sum of Rs 64,475 before the pieces could be surgically removed.
Unfortunately, her ordeal did not end there. A few months later, pain in her lower limbs persisted. When she underwent a CT scan, it revealed that the three broken pieces of the catheter were still present in her vascular system near the Iliac, Tibial and Femoral arteries.
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The hospital, on their part, tried everything they could to defend themselves. Unfortunately, during the pendency of the case, Chitra passed away.
Her surviving kin was awarded a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs in June 2018.
Chitra’s case is one among the many medical negligence cases that are reported on a daily basis. One often comes across the ordeals faced by patients and their caregivers across various social media platforms, but beyond putting it out there, there seems to be little else that one can do. In almost all cases, the compensation offered does not even compare to the impact that medical negligence has on the well being of a family.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence can be defined as the misconduct of a medical practitioner or doctor by not providing enough care resulting in a breach of their duties and harm to the patients. This misconduct can range from prescribing the wrong medicine to larger issues, which can even result in death of the patient.
Examples of negligence
There have been cases where a healthy body part of a patient has been removed without prior consent; cases where a foreign body has been left inside the body after the completion of a surgical procedure; misdiagnosis; and wrongful prescription of medicines which leads to an overdose.
Here’s what you can do in case you are at the receiving end of such negligence:
1. File a complaint in the consumer redressal commission, which has the jurisdiction to address your grievance. Depending on the amount of compensation you are seeking, you will file the complaint with the district, state, or national consumer commission.
2. If the compensation claimed is more than Rs 1 crore, then file the complaint with the National Consumer Commission; if it is between Rs 20 lakhs to 1 crore, then the State Consumer Commission; and if below Rs 20 lakhs, then the District Consumer Commission.
3. Also, file a complaint with the local police station as well. In case the negligence is a criminal offence, the police will make out a case.
4. Ensure that you file the complaint within two years of the negligent act.
5. The complaint must be detailed and have the full case history, along with a description of the negligent act carried out by the doctor.
6. The commission gives the other party 30 days to appear and present their side of the case. After that, the commission will pass its verdict. In case either party is unhappy with the verdict, they can appeal to a higher court.
In India, medical negligence cases are still in a nascent stage. While many cases are being reported, not many make it to the courts. Some are settled out of court while some never see the light of day.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)