Neurosurgeon’s hospital held for Ortho’s misdoings

  • Posted on: May 18, 2016

Krishna Kumar, a simple villager, accidentally fell down from a considerable height which resulted in spinal injury and fracture in both his legs. He was rushed to Dr. Gupta’s hospital where the doctor immediately started treatment for his spinal injury, and called upon Dr. Jain – a consulting Orthopaedic – to treat the fracture. Dr. Jain applied Plaster of Paris (POP) on patient’s right leg and he was discharged after a fortnight with an advice for a follow-up visit after 15 days. Unfortunately for Krishna Kumar, gangrene spread dangerously on his right leg, and it had to be amputated to save his life.

Losing a leg or limb suddenly can be quite shocking; Krishna Kumar’s state of mind was no different. However, the simple villager was strong enough to approach the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. Seeking justice for his irreplaceable loss, Krishna Kumar alleged that Dr. Gupta made a 4” x 4” window 10 days after applying the POP, which was the reason why gangrene developed. Dr. Gupta also assured that the leg was alright and that the POP would be removed after a couple of months. He accepted that a villager such as himself did not fully understand the procedural aspects of law, and hence Dr. Jain was not made a party to the case. But the hospital is run by Dr. Gupta, so wasn’t it his duty to ensure that all patients are cared for and treated as per acceptable medical standards? I lost my leg; what would Dr. Gupta have lost if he was careful and vigilant while treating me, questioned Krishna Kumar.

Dr. Gupta had just one reply to patient’s anguishing remarks – that he was a Neurosurgeon, he only treated spinal injury and the fracture was treated by Dr. Jain, who was not made party to the case.

The Commission made very sound observations from the medical records and arguments presented before it. At the outset, the Commission did agree with Dr. Gupta that Dr. Jain treated the patient’s fracture and charged his fees directly from him. The Commission also observed that the patient alleged deficiency of service only for the treatment he received for the fractured leg and hence, there was no nexus between the treatment given by Dr. Gupta. However, the Commission reprimanded Dr. Jain for taking 10 days to make a window in the POP at the wound site and also reproached Dr. Gupta for not recording treatment given by Dr. Jain during the patient’s stay at the hospital. This, the Commission pointed, was not acceptable. Both doctors failed to take proper care to avoid the development and spread of gangrene, which was an act of omission.

Before concluding, the Commission rightly stated that “It was duty of the Orthopedician or the hospital to take proper care and proper follow up of the patient. The law is well settled that the act of doctors or consultants, irrespective of full time or visiting, they are held liable for negligence. Even though we do not find Dr. Gupta liable for medical negligence, we have to consider that the Orthopedician was called by him, who put the POP, which resulted into gangrene and amputation of the leg. Therefore, the hospital run by Dr. Gupta is vicariously liable”.

The last sentence was like sound of redemption for Krishna Kumar – he was awarded INR 2 lacs as compensation. While no punishment or reward would help grow his leg back, the just end to his unfortunate situation ensured that his belief and respect in the judiciary kept increasing.

Source: Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi on 11th April, 2016.