Improper or inhumane? You decide.

  • Posted on: December 08, 2022

There could be arguments for and against demonetization. But not about the manner in which this hospital stopped a critical patient’s treatment for unreasonable reasons in the days of demonetization.

The patient was admitted in a critical state at the hospital. He was put on ventilator. The hospital demanded two lakh rupees in cash in the month of January 2017 – the period when rules of demonetization were in effect.

The family, like most Indians, did not have sufficient cash in hand. Although ten thousand rupees was deposited in cash, the hospital did not budge despite several pleas and were adamant on full cash deposit. They somehow agreed for an online transfer, but that could not be done either as the bank had closed by the time. The following day was a Sunday.

The hospital did not treat the patient on account of not receiving the demanded cash deposit. And the patient eventually died!

The hospital M.D. seemed to be as indifferent in the court as he was perhaps with the attendants when the patient was admitted. It was stated that the attendants were satisfied with treatment provided. The dispute arose only upon asking the balance amount which was to be paid by them, since only a meagre amount was deposited at the initial stage. The Commission was clearly unimpressed as it observed the following:

“On perusal of the letter written by the M.D. of hospital, it appears that the hospital authorities were concerned with the amount and in absence of amount the treatment was prolonged. It is pertinent to mention that certain hospitals do some charity also for the sake of saving the life of poor patients and by providing timely treatment, as the financial condition of some patients is not sound.”

“In this case, the reasons for delay in depositing the amount was in the knowledge of authorities and specially the M.D. He was well aware about the circumstances arising due to demonetization and the attendants could not manage / arrange the amount in any manner. Even the cheque was not accepted by the hospital. Had the cheque been not honoured, the authorities were at liberty to initiate legal action against the attendants.”

“It has been proved on record that the M.D. asked attendants at 3PM on 7th January for depositing the amount in cash failing which the treatment would be stopped. They could not arrange it due to demonetization. Thereafter, the M.D. issued a letter on the same day to the bank to transfer the amount directly by RTGS in hospital’s account so that patient’s life could be saved and cause of death should not be due to lack of money in spite of having money into account. This letter shows the adamant and rigid behaviour to procure the amount by any means and that too during the period of demonetization. It was not expected from a prudent person and that too when the patient was in critical condition and was on ventilator.”

“Due to inhumane behaviour of the authorities not only the complainants had to suffer from mental tension, agony and harassment but which has resulted into an act of harassment which amounts to deficiency in service also inhumane behaviour towards patient and his relatives.”

What do you make of this unfortunate incident?

Source: Order pronounced by Punjab State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 1st July, 2022.