Doctors can’t fear the law when choosing line of treatment

  • Posted on: February 18, 2019

The easy access of medical information is increasingly proving detrimental for doctors and hospitals as patients and relatives, without understanding medical science, single out and choose what they think is better line of treatment, rather than leaving it up to the able hands of caregivers. The law however, is very clear – the decision of choosing line of treatment cannot be based out of fear of court or intimidating patients.

Jane was diagnosed with brain tumour and had undergone three surgeries for excision of tumour over a period of almost ten years. She had also undergone several cycles of chemotherapy. She was then referred to consulting radiotherapist Dr. Rakesh at Tata Memorial Hospital who initially advised Tomoradiation but decided to change the line of treatment, given the patient’s advance stage of cancer. The patient unfortunately died after a few months of being hospitalised.

The relatives were perhaps prepared for this eventuality, but it seemed they expected a lot as they dragged the doctor and hospital to Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

It was alleged that while Dr. Rakesh advised Tomoradiation, it was not administered despite the fact that it was the right line of treatment for the patient. She died waiting for this treatment which may have prolonged her life.

Dr. Rakesh perhaps sensed the anguish in allegations but he knew that right steps were taken and right treatment was given. It was stated that Jane was a last stage brain tumour patient and the cancer had already spread to the spine. Her condition was very poor but the relatives were expecting a miracle. It was further stated that given the patient’s condition, she was treated by chemotherapy initially using the drug PCV regimen. While Tomoradiation was initially suggested, the decision to treat the patient with chemotherapy was based purely on her very poor condition, added the doctor.

The doctor emphasized on the fact that all re-irradiation techniques including conformal RT, Tomo-therapy, etc. were not curative and at best offered palliation for some interval of time, but the tumours progress invariably.

After perusing the medical records and hearing both sides, the Commission stated the following: “The patient was treated by best possible methods of cancer treatment and as per accepted principles. Tomoradiation was planned but this was to be decided by the treating doctors on the basis of clinical findings and the response to the treatment. The Court will not decide the correctness of the treatment as this is the responsibility of the experts in that particular field”.

Dr. Rakesh and Tata Memorial Hospital were not held negligent.

Source: Order pronounced by Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Mumbai on 17th December, 2018.