Dead body used as hostage to collect ‘illegal’ dues – Hospital draws court’s ire!

  • Posted on: November 30, 2023

A reputed private hospital was recently held negligent and was at the receiving end of some very harsh and adverse inferences from Chandigarh State Consumer Commission. Did it deserve it? Perhaps.

The patient was admitted for bypass surgery. Incidentally, he was also diagnosed with cancer and therefore some antibiotics were administered. Unfortunately, the patient died during the treatment. He was covered under the CGHS scheme.

The hospital raised a bill of INR 2,05,067, out of which INR 58,931 was the cost of antibiotics. Surprisingly, the hospital did not release patient’s dead body and demanded payment of INR 58,931 from patient’s family. Eventually, a cheque was issued in favour of the hospital for the said amount.

Patient’s family contacted CGHS and received confirmation that entire treatment cost was covered under CGHS cashless scheme. The bank was instructed to stop payment / not honour the cheque. The hospital lodged a criminal complaint against the family member for dishonouring the cheque!

The family made an official complaint with CGHS. The authorities ruled that entire treatment was covered under the scheme and hospital should not have demanded INR 58,931. The hospital was ordered to refund the said amount, and also pay INR 50,000 as penalty!

This feud also reached Consumer Commission. Patient’s family alleged that the hospital not only illegally demanded INR 58,931, but also refused to release patient’s body.

The hospital claimed that the additional amount was not covered under CGHS and hence they had the right to claim it. It was also stated that patient’s body was not withheld as alleged.

The Consumer Commission went through CGHS’ order and medical records, and observed the following:

It is pertinent to mention here that CGHS’ order has not been challenged by the hospital before any competent authority and on the other hand, it has paid the penalty amount along with INR 58,931”.

“Retaining the dead body in hospital for want of alleged amount is an act of disrespect towards the deceased. In case there is any bonafide and legally enforceable debt due towards the patient or his legal heirs, there are other remedies available to the hospital for recovery of the same but a hospital cannot hostage the dead body of a patient”.

“Dragging patient’s family in criminal proceedings for recovery of the amount due to dishonour of cheque despite the fact that the hospital was not entitled to receive it is not only illegal, but it is also squarely unethical, barbaric, inhumane, torturous and heinous for the public at large. Thus, deficiency in rendering service and adoption of unfair trade practice, disturbing the peace of the dead and unhumanitarian approach is writ large on the part of the hospital”.

The hospital was ordered to pay an additional compensation of four lakh rupees to patient’s family!   

Source : Order pronounced by Chandigarh State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission 31st October, 2023.