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Trauma suffered cannot translate into legal remedy: Supreme Court dismissing plea on medical negligence

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Supreme Court while dismissing a plea filed by a woman claiming she had lost her husband due to post operative medical negligence and follow up care said that “Doctors are expected to take reasonable care, but no professional can assure that the patient will come home after overcoming the crisis.

After going through the case, examining all the records and taking opinion of experts on the matter the Supreme Court has reached on a conclusion that present one is not a case of medical negligence at the same time it said, “we realize the pain of losing her husband and the trauma she has suffered, but that cannot translate into a legal remedy.” Ultimately ,Court upheld the order passed by Commission and dismissed the plea. 

Present case was filed by Dr. Mrs Chanda Rani Akhouri who lost her husband on 3rd February, 1996, as he had developed abscess in pancreas and liver which later converted into Septicemia after he had a successful kidney transplantation in month of November 1995. 

The NCDRC had held that it was not a case of post operative medical negligence as being alleged by the appellants and dismissed the complaint by the judgment impugned dated 21st July, 2009 which is the subject matter of appeal filed at the instance of the appellants under Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. 

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She had moved the Supreme Court challenging the order of Commission and claiming special damages/ general damages for a total sum of Rs.95,16,174.33, for post-operative negligence and follow up care on the part of the doctors and the nursing staff of the hospital who had not provided proper medical care to Naveen Kant (her husband) and attributed negligence on the part of the treating doctors and the hospital. 

The Supreme Court has said, “The doctors can provide their best medical assistance available at their command but merely because they could not save the patient, that could not be considered to be a case of post operative medical negligence despite the fact that medical protocol administered by them was duly supported by the two medical experts of the field who appeared on behalf of the respondents, Dr. S. Sundar and Dr. Arun Kumar, and nothing elicits from the cross-examination made by the appellants. In the given circumstances, the findings which has been returned by the Commission needs no further interference by this Court.”

“A medical practitioner is not to be held liable simply because things went wrong from mischance or misadventure or through an error of judgment in choosing one reasonable course of treatment in preference to another.

In the practice of medicine, there could be varying approaches of treatment. There could be a genuine difference of opinion. However, while adopting a course of treatment, the duty cast upon the medical practitioner is that he must ensure that the medical protocol being followed by him is to the best of his skill and with competence at his command. At the given time, medical practitioner would be liable only where his conduct fell below that of the standards of a reasonably competent practitioner in his field”

-added the Court. 

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Furthermore it stated that the term “negligence” has no defined boundaries and if any medical negligence is there, whether it is pre or post-operative medical care or in the follow-up care, at any point of time by the treating doctors or anyone else, it is always open to be considered by the Courts/Commission taking note of the exposition of law laid down by this Court of which a detailed reference has been made and each case has to be examined on its own merits in accordance with law.

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