Doc claims to be an angel despite committing grave mistakes

  • Posted on: August 24, 2018

Harpreet had polio in both legs and approached orthopedic surgeon Dr. Maini who decided to perform surgery first of the right leg and then of the left leg after few days. However, for reasons best known to himself or perhaps as a blunder, the doctor first performed surgery on the left leg.

The patient could not walk with her left leg and visited the doctor who simply advised her to use crepe bandages to lessen the difficulty in walking! The patient obviously didn’t get any relief and was fed up by doctor’s casual attitude. She approached the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi and presented facts of the case.

There was only one but a damning allegation – the doctor operated on the wrong leg!

Dr. Maini tried his best to put up a strong and believable defense. It was stated that it is normal practice to cure the better leg first in case both legs are affected by polio. It was the doctor’s discretion to decide which leg was better and should be operated upon first. Shockingly, the doctor claimed that the consent form did not reflect which leg was to be operated first as it was deliberately left blank by the patient and hence she did not have any right to complain!

The doctor further stated that while the pre-anesthesia report suggested soft tissue correction for deformity, his advice was correction deformity which would also necessitate bony correction. An anesthetist is not the specialist to decide which portion to operate upon, arrogantly claimed the doctor.

Dr. Maini finally submitted that the left leg was operated first as polio’s effect on it was less than the right leg. Even the patient had confirmed that she could walk properly with her left leg after the procedure, concluded the doctor.

Although the Commission allowed the doctor to present his defense, there were clear indications that he was trying to wash his hands clean. The doctor was responded point by point, as the Commission stated the following:

“The patient was found weak in her quadriceps of the right leg and against the column Proposed Operation the words ‘soft tissue correction’ appear. In other words the soft tissue correction was to be made as per pre-anaesthetic record. Anaesthetics obviously have relied upon the material furnished or the instructions given by the surgeon. They cannot act on their own in so far as a particular part is to be operated upon. The doctor’s contention that he had to undergo for bony correction is an afterthought. It may made here clear that the right leg simply required soft tissue correction and not bony correction”.
“The doctor issued a certificate immediately after the completion of surgery. Where was the need of giving a concession to the patient to treat her further without any financial liability? There is no material in support of extending the said concession. It goes to show that the doctor was suffering from a feeling of guilt and promised to do further treatment without charging any money”.
“The doctor has relied upon the authorization form and consent form in support of his contention that he planned for operating the left leg. Both these forms show that the portion meant for indicating the part for surgery was left blank. Blankness of the column rather goes against the doctor. It does not stand to reason that after obtaining the consent of the patient or relatives / attendants, the doctor would decide as to which part was to be operated upon. Any planning for surgery has to be made first and only thereafter a consent has to be obtained. Filling up of the column for the body part to be operated upon cannot liability of a patient or relatives / attendants who are laymen. It is for the hospital or the treating doctors to explain to the patient or relatives / attendants the risks involved and the course of action / procedure to be followed. The doctor made a grave error in obtaining consent on his unfilled form. This in itself is a case of ‘deficiency in service.”
“The doctor in his own prescription recorded that the patient had lost walking in the left leg. It goes to show that the patient had suffered injury resulting from the surgery on the left leg instead of the right leg. Pleas taken by the doctor are an afterthought. The aforesaid discussion leads to the safe inference that he performed surgery on the left leg whereas the same was planned for right leg”.
Dr. Maini was obviously held guilty of negligence and ordered to pay ten lakh rupees as compensation.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi on 26th June, 2018