A consumer forum on Wednesday directed a Kolkata hospital and the state health department to pay Rs 19.20 lakh compensation to the family of Dinanath Chowdhury, 22 years after he died of rabies, on grounds that he was not administered an “effective vaccine”.
Association For Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) activist Parthapratim Dasgupta appeared before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum’s (CDRF) Hooghly bench on behalf of the family of the victim, who was 15 years old at the time of his death. The principal secretary of Chandannagar S D Hospital and the state health department were directed to pay the compensation within 30 days.
On June 12, 1996, Dinanath was bitten by a stray dog near the Gondalpara Jute Mill in Chandannagar, where his father worked. He was admitted to Chandannagar S D Hospital, where he was given an anti-rabies vaccine.
However, his health kept deteriorating and he was referred to Beliaghata ID Hospital on August 7. He died there two days later.
During its initial fact-finding exercise, the APDR found that the refrigerator (in which the vaccine was stored) wasn’t working, said Dasgupta. A five-member expert committee was formed at the direction of West Bengal Human Rights Commission, which mentioned three possible reasons for Dinanath’s death — incompetence of the vaccine, the vaccine not being kept in ideal conditions and inadequate dosage administered. “The APDR considers the order as an important one, considering the fact that court had initially refused to consider the victim as a consumer,” added Dasgupta.
During the hearing, the court observed that if an individual avails of free treatment (anti-rabies vaccines are free in government hospitals) in an institution from where others pay money for the same, the former shall be treated as a “consumer”.
“The family had been fighting the case since 1996. Initially, the appeal was dismissed on the ground that Dinanath was not a consumer since he was being given free treatment. With APDR support, a fresh petition was filed. After numerous hearings, the court directed that the hospital has to pay compensation along with Rs 10,000 as cost of litigation fees,” Dasgupta told The Indian Express.
“Though a little late, we are happy that justice has finally been served,” said Dinanath’s uncle, Shankar Chowdhury.