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Court Dismisses 143-Crore Claim Against Hospital In Kolkata For Alleged Negligence In Treatment

New Delhi, June 1: The apex consumer court in New Delhi on Wednesday dismissed the highest ever medical compensation case of claim that was filed by an Indian born// US scientist Kunal Saha for the death of his wife in 1998, which he alleged due to the wrongful treatment.

Making a statement from Ohio Saha said that the judgement of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) was utterly shocking not just for him, but also for the millions of ordinary Indian citizens who were seeking justice against the hitherto 'untouchable' Indian doctors. He promised to move the matter to the Supreme Court immediately against the ruling of the apex court.

Saha had filed a Rs.770 million ($17 million) claim against a Kolkata hospital (AMRI) after the death of his wife Anuradha Saha, 36, due to alleged wrong treatment by three senior doctors - Baidyanath Halder, Abani Roy chowdhury and Sukumar Mukherjee who he claimed had administered an 'unscientific overdose of highly toxic steroid' to his wife Anuradha which resulted in her death.

Saha's story began in April 1998 when he and his wife were in Kolkata on a visit to their families. A couple of days later days in Kolkata, Anuradha, 36, developed a cold, a fever and minor skin rash which looked like it was spreading after a week. The skin rash was diagnosed as 'toxic epidermal necrolysis', an immune disorder that is fatal in 15-20% cases. Though her condition worsened the doctors were apparently certain that it would improve.

Saha claimed to have seen Dr Mukherjee inject his wife with 80 milligrams of Depo-medrol. Dr Mukherjee also prescribed 80 mg twice a day. And over the next five days, 800 mg of Depo-medrol was administered to Anuradha. After six days of this treatment, Anuradha's condition worsened. Her skin peeled off. She was then admitted to the Advanced Medical Research Institute, from where she was shifted to the Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, where she died on May 28. The cause of death was reported as septic shock with systemic candidiasis, a frequent side effect of excessive steroids. Months later, in correspondence with Pharmacia-Upjohn in the US, who are the makers of the steroid, Saha learnt that the correct dosage was 40 to 120 mg once every two to four weeks.

The NCDRC in its judgement while dismissing the case observed that the courts or the consumer forum could not sit in an appeal against the decision taken by the expert doctors with regard to administration of a particular dose of medicine. They announced that it had to be judged with respect to circumstances with each case. The judgment also stated that the doctors or surgeons do not undertake that they will positively cure a patient. They also said that there is no substance in regard to the alleged deficient treatment given to Mrs. Anuradha by the doctors. They stated that the contention against the hospital that it was not having burns ward, and, therefore, the deceased suffered is also without substance. Hence, they dismissed the complaint and ordered that there shall be no order as to costs, the judgement said. Saha claimed that the judgement failed to discuss the medical opinion from numerous experts that he had produced from around the world or the fact that none of the accused doctors were able to bring even a single medical expert. He also said that he had announced under oath that he would spend every rupee from this case to promote health in India.

He explained that the NCDRC has dismissed the case on two basic grounds that the primary doctors were acquitted and that the West Bengal Medical Council has found no fault in the treatment. But he said that after hearing both to both sides the Supreme Court has allowed his special leave petition challenging the acquittal. While stating that the criminal case was currently pending at the court for final decision Saha said that the corrupt nature of medical councils were well kno wn, but he questioned the need for the consumer courts when the decision of the medical council is considered unbreakable.


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