Free service doesn’t mean free to commit negligence, says court

  • Posted on: January 29, 2018

Jitendra, a police constable, had wrist pain and hence approached Central Hospital, Ulhasnagar. Being a government servant, he was entitled to free medical services at the hospital.

The visit at the hospital however, changed his life completely. Dr. Dongre of Central Hospital advised an injection which the nurse administered wrongly causing damage to the radial nerve. Jitendra’s left hand was paralysed by 25 % - 50%.

He approached the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra, presented facts of the case, and pleaded for justice and compensation.

Dr. Dongre and Central Hospital representatives had a strong defence too. It was stated that there can be no ground of action against either the doctor or the hospital as the service was rendered free of cost. Being a government employee, the patient sought service at a government hospital free of cost.

The Commission did not buy the arguments presented in defence. It was observed that an irresponsible attitude or failure to provide proper care cannot be hidden under the garb of providing free medical service. The Commission further observed that the injection ought to have been administered by a properly trained nurse or doctor, and stated the following:“In such cases, when patient suffered injury as a result of wrong administration of injection by a nurse without supervision of doctor, not only principle of res-ipsa-loquitur is attracted, but also once the patient has discharged the initial onus of making out a prima-facie case of negligence against the hospital or nurse concerned, the onus is shifted upon the hospital or the nurse concerned to prove that there was no lack of adequate care and caution”.

Central Hospital and the nurse were held guilty of negligence and were ordered to pay Jitendra ten lakhs as compensation.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtraon 10th October, 2017.