The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a compensation of Rs 1.7 crore to a girl who lost vision soon after birth due to medical negligence by doctors of a government hospital in Tamil Nadu.
A bench of Justices J S Khehar and S A Bobde awarded a compensation of Rs 1.3 crore — one of the highest ever in the country — and topped it with an additional amount of Rs 42 lakh to take care of the medical treatment that the 18-year-old girl would require.
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It asked the Tamil Nadu government to pay the compensation after holding the doctors of the government hospital in Chennai’s Egmore guilty of gross medical negligence. The girl was born prematurely at the hospital on August 30, 1986. She was placed in an incubator in the intensive care unit of the hospital for the next 25 days.
Even after her discharge, the hospital’s doctors kept visiting her but at no point in time they prescribed a test for the disease, Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), which is frequent in cases of premature births. By the time private doctors could flag the problem, the disease had reached its terminal stage and the girl lost vision.
The bench found no justification for why the necessary tests were overlooked by the doctors and held them accountable for negligence. It agreed with the argument by advocate Nikhil Nayyar, who represented the girl and her family, that the girl had remained under constant care of the hospital’s doctors and hence the liability had to be fastened upon them and the state government.
Nayyar had pointed out that one Dr Duraiswamy, who was working in the Neo-natology unit of the hospital, visited the girl at least six times between October and November, 1986 but he or any other doctor never told the parents that a premature baby is prone to a higher risk of retinal detachment, nor were they informed that an internal examination of eye by an ophthalmologist was required.
Accepting the lawyer’s contentions, the court dismissed an appeal by the state government against the order of compensation by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, while simultaneously allowing a plea by girl’s father V Krishnakumar to enhance the damages.
The Commission has granted a compensation of Rs 5 lakh in 2009, which also remained unpaid by the state government till date.