Committing to free treatment, refund or compensation? Exercise caution!

  • Posted on: July 06, 2023

Doctors / hospitals giving verbal commitment to refund treatment fees, even on compassionate grounds, must not do so lightly and ought to follow up on their word; unless they want to get sucked in controversies and lengthy litigations.  

The patient met with a bizarre road accident. An electric pole fell on him while he was riding on the motorcycle. He was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with fracture of left hand and radial nerve injury. The orthopaedic surgeon performed ORIF procedure and advised regular follow up at hospital’s OPD.

Injuries caused due to accident turned out to be severe as the patient was diagnosed with non-union of bones and radial nerve palsy during follow up visit. The orthopaedic surgeon advised another surgery and it seems that the doctor, perhaps with good intentions, offered to treat without any cost.

The patient approached other hospitals, and he underwent another surgery at one of those hospitals.

He sued the orthopaedic surgeon, alleging negligence in performing surgery which caused non-union of bones and radial nerve palsy. The patient also alleged that the doctor flatly refused to perform second surgery free of cost despite his promise and commitment to do so.

The Commission perused medical records of both hospitals, and dismissed patient’s complain. The Commission observed:

As per discharge summary the patient was treated for the fracture of shaft of left humerus, neurological deficit and radial nerve injury. For the fracture, ORIF plate osteosynthesis was done and for repair of radial nerve left upper limb, splint age was done along with medicines and other supportive care. The treatment was on correct lines.

At the other hospital, an effort was made to conduct nerve repair, tendon transfer, splint age with POP under brachial plexus block. So, treatment at this hospital was the same given by the doctor”.

Patient’s contention is that the doctor assured to give free treatment for nerve radial injury, and later demanded money is not a ground to decide negligence. Even if it is admitted that he assured to give treatment for free of cost it cannot be presumed that he was negligent and to suppress the same, gave assurances of free treatment. Taking all the aspects into consideration, though we have our sympathy towards the patient for his sufferings, negligence cannot be attributed to the doctor.

Source : Order pronounced by Telangana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 13th March, 2023.