Adopt best practices to avoid bad outcomes

  • Posted on: April 04, 2024

Law accepts that there could be several modes of treatment; however, it also mandates that the best available practice / treatment must be adopted. A doctor and hospital were recently held negligent for not doing so.

A pregnant lady was under the care of gynaecologist and consulted him regularly at the hospital. She was admitted at full term for delivery. Unfortunately, the foetus developed hypoxia – a stillborn baby was delivered.  

The distraught parents sued the hospital and doctor. Their main allegation was that the doctor did not perform C-section despite patient complaining of lesser movement in the womb.

The doctor rebutted this allegation by pointing out that the first non-stress test did not report asphyxia. The second one was also non-reactive / suspicious. Foetal heart monitoring was carried out periodically; there was no evidence of hypoxia.

The doctor further pointed out that an acute episode of foetal heart rate deceleration was noticed few hours later and hence, the decision to perform C-section was taken immediately.

The hospital, adding to the defence, stated that in a low-risk pregnancy, it was not possible to detect which patient develops which problem at what point of time in labour.

The Commission rejected hospital’s and doctor’s defence, as it made following observations:

“The patient brought to doctor’s notice and as well as hospital administration that there was lesser movement of foetus in her womb, but despite bringing fact to their knowledge, they did not opt for best practice of C-section available at that time”.

“Moreover, defence presented by the doctor and hospital administration that foetal heart rate was not detectable cannot be accepted as hypoxia is a slow process of strangulation of cord and by adopting the best practice of C-section, the foetus could have been saved. There is nothing on record to show that the patient did not consent for C-section. Therefore, it is crystal clear on record that the hospital administration and the doctor did not adopt best practice at the relevant point of time, which resulted into death of foetus in the womb”.

The doctor and hospital were ordered to pay compensation of nine lakh rupees to the patient. 

Source : Order pronounced by Himachal Pradesh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 20th October, 2