Apex court orders Rs.10 mn compensation for medical negligence (Lead)

May 14th, 2009 - 9:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Nearly two decades after Bangalore-based Infosys engineer Prashanth S. Dhananka became paralysed waist down after a botched surgery, the Supreme Court ordered the Nizam Medical Institute of Hyderabad to pay him a record compensation of Rs.10 million, while praising him for fighting the case himself though confined to a wheelchair.
Ordering the compensation for medical negligence to Dhananka, a bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal also asked the apex court’s registry to send the verdict to the victim through registered post at his address in Bangalore.

The bench also recorded its “deep appreciation” of Dhananka for his having argued the entire case on medical concepts himself in the apex court with the deftness of a lawyer.

The bench, which also included Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice G.S. Singhvi, also appreciated the victim’s equanimity and composure while arguing his case.

Justifying the payment of the compensation, the court said, the sum is justified “keeping in mind that a brilliant career has been cut short and there is, as of now, no possibility of improvement of his physical conditions”.

“The compensation would ensure him a steady and reasonable income in a situation when he is unable to earn for himself,” said the court.

Recording its appreciation for his endeavour to fight the case himself, the court said: “The victim made his protracted arguments while remaining confined to the wheelchair in the court.”

“Despite this, he remained unruffled and behaved with dignity and equanimity and pleaded his case bereft of any rancour or invective against those, who in his perception, harmed him,” observed the bench.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) had in 1993 ordered the Nizam Institute to pay a compensation of Rs.1.5 million to Dhananka for botching up his surgery for removal of a tumour in his chest cavity, which led to paralysis of the lower body, including legs.

Dhananka, son of a Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) employee, was admitted to the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in September 1990 after complaints of unexplained intermittent fever. Doctors from BHEL hospital referred him to the Hyderabad hospital for “further” tests, which showed a large tumour in his left chest cavity. After an X-ray and a CT scan confirmed this, he was asked to undergo a biopsy.

Though the tumour was found to be benign, doctors decided to remove it fearing that it might later exert pressure on his respiratory, cardio-vascular and neurological systems. The doctors feared it could also later turn malignant.

A team led by a cardio-thoracic surgeon removed the tumour. In the process, a part of his ribs had to be cut. After the surgery, Dhananka, developed paralysis of the lower portion of the body, including legs.

No allegation of medical negligence was made then. But, six months later, Dhananka’s father wrote a letter to the institute in 1991, alleging negligence.

In 1993, Dhananka moved the NCDRC seeking damages of about Rs.50 million. The commission held the doctors negligent and directed the institute to pay Rs.1.4 million to him and Rs.150,000 to his father.

The institute moved the apex court challenging the NCDRC finding that it was guilty of negligence.

It contended that it had not associated a neuro-surgeon in the surgery from the beginning and had not exchanged any opinion with sister institutes in India and abroad.

Dhananka also approached the apex court in 1999 saying that the compensation awarded to him by the consumer court was inadequate. The court had reserved its ruling on the two cross-appeals on Sep 17 last year.

While calculating the Rs.10 million compensation, the bench accounted Rs.2.5 million for the loss of his prospective earning, anther Rs.2.5 million for his medical care, Rs.1.08 million for his physiotherapy, and Rs.1.44 million for his nursing and care, among other costs.

Earlier, the Madras High Court had in May 1993 ordered Apollo Hospital to pay compensation of around Rs.2.9 million to former national table tennis champion V. Chandrasekhar for medical negligence in treating him. The ruling had been upheld by the apex court later.

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