Assumptions bear a heavy price

  • Posted on: August 12, 2021

The patient was admitted at a reputed hospital where biopsy from brain lesion confirmed diagnosis of primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL). Her family was taken aback at the findings of cancer. They opted for chemotherapy with a hope that it’d cure her.

The patient underwent first cycle of chemotherapy and was discharged after couple of days. But complications set in almost immediately. She experienced dizziness and hence was readmitted to the hospital. She was diagnosed with hyponatremia – low blood sodium. Second cycle of chemotherapy was started once hyponatremia was brought under control.

After an uneventful fortnight, the patient developed toxicity and was admitted yet again. She suffered renal failure, septicaemia shock and minor cardiac arrest and could not recover. Complications of cancer claimed yet another life.

The distraught family sued the hospital and doctors. They alleged that patient’s pH and toxicity levels were not monitored which was against the protocol.

The doctors submitted in defence that estimation of serum MTX level was not available in the hospital. At that time it was not available even at many other reputed institutions in the country. It was further submitted that Leucovorin rescue was started on time to bring down toxicity level. Even low blood sodium level was managed immediately.

The Commission concurred with doctors’ submissions. However, they had missed on one critical aspect. It was observed that while the patient’s complications were managed appropriately, the doctors did not perform a fairly simply urine pH test. They rather presumed that urine pH might be alkaline instead of confirming it.

This act of omission was against the protocol, observed the Commission and held the doctors and hospital negligent. They were ordered to pay compensation to patient’s family.

Source: Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 10th June, 2021.