Inform unavailability of doctors well in advance to patients

  • Posted on: April 16, 2018

In the interest of patients and following due diligence, healthcare providers must inform patients or their relatives well in advance the unavailability of doctors during or after a procedure and / or treatment. Courts usually draw adverse inference when this is not done, as this case demonstrates.

Subhasis and his wife were soon to be proud parents. However, Mrs. Subhasis had abdominal pain for which the couple visited Dr. Mukherjee who simply noted that the patient was twenty eight weeks pregnant and prescribed iron tonic, calcium and antibiotics. The prescribed medicines aggravated Mrs. Subhasis’ pain and hence she was admitted to Sanjiban Hospital under the care of Dr. Dutta who handed over the care of the patient to Dr. Paul who in turn diagnosed the patient with Oligohydramnios.

The doctor administered medicine to induce labour but to no avail. In the meantime, Dr. Paul too left for some personal reasons and the patient’s care was handed over to Dr. Saha. Unfortunately, a still born baby was delivered after which Mrs. Subhasis suffered postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) and died.

Subhasis was heartbroken as he had lost the child and his loving wife. He mustered up the courage and approached State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal and vented out his anger upon the team of doctors and hospital. Among many other allegations, Subhasis’ main allegation was that the doctors continued to pursue artificial labour rather than opting for C-section despite the foetus being in breech position.

The Commission, after carefully studying the medical reports, arrived at the conclusions, and they weren’t in favour of the doctors. At the outset, it was observed that the patient was not informed in advance about unavailability of the treating doctors. The Commission further observed that neither Dr. Mukherjee nor other doctors who treated the patient subsequently record any clinical symptoms, existing infection or the fact that the foetus was in breech position.

Citing medical literature, the Commission also observed that pre-term foetus presented in breech position are delivered by C-section which was not followed in this case. Lastly, the Commission observed that the patient wasn’t suffering from PPH or DIC before the treatment started and that indicated lapses on part of the hospital and treating doctors.

Although they were held negligent and fined more than four lakh rupees, it didn’t seem enough for Subhasis as he had lost his world to medical negligence.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal on 23rd March, 2018.