Mere allegation of exorbitant charge not ground for deficiency in service

  • Posted on: May 20, 2019

Many a times patients and their relatives drag the doctors and hospitals to court either for not receiving the desired result or alleging that they were ‘exorbitantly’ charged. Neither is a ground for medical negligence, is what courts say as it happened in this case.

Tania, a teenager of sixteen visited Dr. Patra with complain of irregular and menstrual bleeding. The doctor diagnosed her Systemic Lupus Erythematosas (SLE), a rare autoimmune disease and prescribed medicines accordingly. The patient was under Dr. Patra’s care for more than a year during which the doctor changed the line of treatment and medicines, but to no avail.

After about eighteen months, when the patient showed no improvement, and when the doctor observed that her haemoglobin levels were dropping dangerously low, the patient was admitted to the hospital where two packets of RBC were transfused. However, the patient’s condition deteriorated and within a week she died.

The patient’s mother sued Dr. Patra and levelled several allegations. But one of her mail allegation was that the doctor kept on usurping money and charged exorbitant amounts for eighteen months – the duration she treated the patient.

Dr. Patra rebutted the allegations with appropriate medical literature pointing out that SLE is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in many parts of the body and the symptoms vary between people and may be mild to severe. It was also pointed out that the prognosis of the treatment limits the life span from five to fifteen years in most cases.

After perusing medical literature and the medical records, the Commission agreed that the patient was treated as per standard of protocol and succumbed to a rare autoimmune disease. The Commission, more importantly, also observed that mere allegation that the patient was charged an exorbitant amount for treatment cannot be ground for medical negligence.

Hence, the charges against Dr. Patra were quashed.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal on 26th February, 2019.