Wrong diagnosis does not amount to medical negligence: SC
The Supreme Court, on Monday, dismissed the appeal filed by a man against order of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which dismissed his complaint alleging medical negligence on the part of a hospital in the death of his wife.

We have sympathy for the appellant, but sympathy cannot translate into a legal remedy, said the bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul while upholding the NCDRC order which had held that the case 'would at best be a case of wrong diagnosis, if that; it certainly cannot be called medical negligence'.

Background:

The wife of the appellant was suffering from various diseases – oesophageal cancer (past history of colon and breast cancer), hypertension and type 2 diabetes. She was attended to by respondent doctor for the chill and fever, and nasal feed tube was inserted on 15.10.2011, with some allied tests prescribed to be carried out. One of the tests was a Complete Blood Count Report, which found that the WBC count was high, indicative of infection. She had also running temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and her medical treatment commenced with intravenous administration of injection Magnex of 1.5 mg.

As per the medical reports, the cannula used for intravenous treatment stopped functioning and the doctor prescribed a further antibiotic tablet, Polypod (Cefpodoxime) to be orally administered through the nasal tube. The patient was discharged from the Hospital on 18.10.2011, at which stage also her WBC count was high and she was prescribed to continue taking her medicines for a period of 5 days post discharge, which apparently was administered to her, as per the appellant.

The appellant claimed that on 23.10.2011, his wife went into coma and had to be admitted to a nearby hospital, where she was put on life-support ventilation system. The WBC count of the wife of the appellant had risen even further and the systolic BP was only 40. Her health continued to deteriorate and she was required to be shifted to the Fortis Escorts Hospital, where she finally succumbed to her illness on 31.10.2011.

Allegations:

In was alleged that the following acts and omissions on part of the hospital constituted medical negligence:

(a) Inappropriate and ineffective medication
(b) Failure to restart the cannula for IV medication
(c) Premature discharge of the deceased despite her condition warranting treatment in the ICU
(d) Oral administration of Polypod antibiotic, despite her critical condition, which actually required intravenous administration of the medicine

Though the state commission allowed the complaint and ordered a compensation of Rs.15 lakh, the national commission had set it aside.

The court stated that

- "...Respondent Doctor who was expected to bring a reasonable degree of skill, knowledge and care, based on his assessment of the patient, prescribed oral administration of the antibiotic in that scenario, especially on account of the past medical treatments of the wife of the appellant, because of which the veins for administration of IV could not be located. Her physical condition was found to be one where the oral administration of the drug was possible..."

- "...There was no evidence to show any unexplained deviation from standard protocol. It is also relevant to note that the deceased was medically compromised by the reason of her past illnesses..."

- "...The death had been caused by a multiplicity of factors. In the end, we may also note that the medical certificate issued for the cause of death by Fortis Escorts Hospital cited septic shock due to multiple organ failure as the immediate cause of death, with her diabetic condition being an antecedent cause, as also the multiple malignancies, post chemotherapy and radiotherapy all contributing to her passing away..."

Read the complete Supreme Court judgement in the PDF attached below.

Source: Vinod Jain v. Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital & Anr., 2024 of 2019

Note: The objective of the #LegallySpeaking initiative is to spread awareness about the medicolegal implications of commonly encountered scenarios in a clinician's daily practice.
Dr. P●●●●●e G●●g and 29 others like this17 shares
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Dr. D●●●●●●h N●●●i
Dr. D●●●●●●h N●●●i Homeopathic Medicine
Great Judgement.
Feb 27, 2019Like1
Dr. S●●●●●m S●●●●y P●●●●●l
Dr. S●●●●●m S●●●●y P●●●●●l Family Medicine
Thank you for the info.
Feb 28, 2019Like
S●●●●i R●●●●●●●●●●n
S●●●●i R●●●●●●●●●●n General Medicine
I' m just a medical student,and do not have that broad a clinical knowledge,so please do offer your explanations as to why you think this judgement is/isn' t justified.I do not understand why they discharged her when the WBCs were rising.Ofcourse,we do not have all details.I just want to understand how the case was managed
Mar 6, 2019Like