Observing that corporate hospitals and specialists are expected to “perform at a higher level than other hospitals/general practitioners”, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has directed the Indraprastha Apollo hospital and a gynaecologist associated with the hospital to pay Rs 1 crore as compensation to a couple for the disability and eventual death of their daughter due to “substandard care during labour”.
The child had suffered birth asphyxia resulting in cerebral palsy due to negligence at the time of her birth in 1999. The parents approached the consumer commission in 2002 with a claim of medical negligence. The child died while the case was before the commission.
Of the Rs 1 crore awarded to the doctor couple, Rs 80 lakh has to be paid by the hospital and the remaining Rs 20 lakh by Dr Sohini Verma, the gynaecologist.
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The couple had conceived after several years of infertility treatments. The mother was admitted to Apollo hospital for delivery. The NCDRC, in its order issued last week, observed that the gynaecologist and the hospital delayed giving an emergency Cesaerian section to the child’s mother at the time of her labour and provided high dosage of drugs.
“Patient with precious pregnancy was unnecessarily suffered during prolonged labour; there was administration of excessive Syntocinon which caused birth asphyxia to the baby Nishtha, who further suffered cerebral palsy and 95% disability. She survived in such pathetic condition for 12 years,” the commission noted.
“The higher the level of hospital had specialised facilities and specialist doctors available and also the cost of treatment will be higher, thus the level of expectation of the patient certainly will be high. Most of the hospitals, either government or private sector, who treat a large number of patients and must be held accountable in cases of negligence. It is very disappointing that, the sky-rocketing costs in health care spurred public and private reform. Knowing full well how the corporate hospitals now function and huge amount of fee they charge, it is very well evidenced by the currency counting machine in the cashier section of each of these hospitals,” it held.
“Sufferings of mother and also the child’s sufferings for 12 years, treatment and other expenses, the metal agony and trauma to the parents who suffered loss of their baby and thereon the quantum of interest on such amount. Therefore, putting further reliance upon the judgments of Hon’ble Apex Court for award of compensation, we are of considered view to allow a lump sum award of compensation of Rs 1 crore, which according to us is just and proper,” the NCDRC held.
The Commission has now held that “substandard care to the patient during labour resulted poor outcome despite using modern technology of cardiography (CTG). Inability to interpret the CTG trace, i.e., poor pattern recognition, failure to correlate to the pathophysiology that causes the CTG changes, not taking into consideration the clinical situation that may suggest foetal distress and delay in taking appropriate action due to poor communication and team work were reasons for the poor outcome.”
Further the court also noted that the hospital had filed “tampered” medical records of the mother’s treatment, after delaying for several years.