Cancer claims yet another life, and almost affects doctors too

  • Posted on: March 13, 2021

The patient, a bubbly teenage girl, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She was taken to a reputed cancer institute where she was advised sessions of chemotherapy followed by knee replacement and artificial limb implant at a later stage.

The chemo sessions began, but they continued for six months, much longer than initially decided. The doctors at the cancer institute placed an order for the prosthesis towards the end of chemo sessions. It unfortunately turned out to big by 1mm when the patient was taken to the operation theatre. The doctors decided and implanted the prosthesis.

The young girl’s suffering did not end there. Few months later, her operated leg developed infection. The doctors advised chemo sessions and replacement of the prosthesis, along with fibula grafting. The girl’s father denied further treatment at the cancer institute and took her to another hospital where the leg was eventually amputated. Cancer, infection, pain... the bright young girl succumbed in some days.

The father perhaps could not come to terms with his loss, and sued the cancer institute and its doctors. He levelled several allegations, but his main grouse was that the operation was delayed by six months and prosthesis of wrong size was implanted.

The Commission’s heart may have went out at the father’s loss, but it was all that could be offered. Citing medical literature, it was observed that osteosarcoma is a highly malignant form of cancer and requires quite a few cycles of chemotherapy before the patient stabilizes.

Addressing the issue of wrong prosthesis size, the Commission observed that the components come in different sizes and configurations, and stated the following: “The sizes may usually vary with measurements taken on a clinical examination and the exact size can only be determined on operating table by the operating surgeon. In this case on the doctor, on clinical examination asked for the diameter of the main prosthesis to be approximately 9mm”.

“However, the exact measurements taken during operation indicated that the patient required prosthesis of 9mm. Therefore, the allegation about prosthesis of a different size than that prescribed earlier was used which resulted in pain to the patient which had to be ultimately removed is not sustainable. It is pertinent to note that this was not a case where the prosthesis with 9mm diameter was not available at the time of operation. However, the operating surgeon during surgery decided to use a prosthesis with 10mm diameter. It was the wrong presumption that oversized prosthesis would have caused pain”.

The case against cancer institute and its doctors was dismissed. The girl’s father received the well-reasoned reply, but did he get the much-needed closure? Lets hope so.

Source: Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 8th January, 2021.