Free service is also a service

  • Posted on: September 08, 2018

Can hospitals or doctors that provide free service are immune from cases of medical negligence? Apparently not, as this case demonstrates.

Mrs. Biswas had approached the hospital for sterilization where Dr. Sarkar performed the procedure. Almost immediately after the procedure, the patient suffered excruciating pain and got readmitted to the hospital. She was diagnosed with perforation in terminal ileum and was referred to another hospital for better management.

Loop ileostomy was performed at the other hospital and ileostomy was closed by performing another operation.

Mrs. Biswas, it seemed, was facing a domino effect of the sterilization procedure. About after 15 months, she was diagnosed with acute calculus cholecystitis after which an open cholecystectomy was performed.

After recovering completely, she didn’t waste time in rushing to the court of law. She approached State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal and blamed Dr. Sarkar for her prolonged illness. It was alleged that the post-ligation restlessness and severe pain in the abdomen immediately after the sterilization procedure established lack of care on part of the doctor. It was further alleged that perforation in terminal ileum also indicated negligence and lack of due diligence by the doctor. I suffered for a long period and the doctor must pay for it, concluded Mrs. Biswas.

Dr. Sarkar, at the outset, stated that the sterilization procedure was performed at a government hospital free of cost and hence, the patient was not a consumer. The doctor further stated that the patient was referred to another hospital without wasting any time as soon as perforation in terminal ileum was diagnosed. Moreover, the doctor finally submitted, acute calculus cholecystitis had no connection to the sterilization procedure. We followed due diligence, why are we being dragged unnecessarily, questioned the doctor.

The Commission was ready with the replies. Citing Supreme Court’s ruling, it was observed that the patient was indeed a consumer, even though the sterilization procedure was performed free of cost.

Moreover, the Commission further observed, that perforation in terminal ileum immediately after the procedure proved lack of due care, diligence and negligence on part of Dr. Sarkar and the hospital.

The doctor and hospital were ordered to compensate the patient more than five lakh rupees.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal on 26th July, 2018.