Not performing ‘ethical duty’ costs radiology lab 1.25 crores!

  • Posted on: January 05, 2023

This could perhaps be one of the more important cases in modern times, and a precedence could be drawn from it the future.

A pregnant patient was under regular antenatal (ANC) care of a gynaecologist. The doctor referred her to an imaging centre for USG. The radiologist at this centre reported normal findings.

Three subsequent USGs were done at the same centre, each reported ‘no obvious congenital anomalies in the foetal head abdomen and spine’.

To everyone’s utter surprise, the patient delivered a malformed baby boy. He had several anomalies - poor blink reflexes, facial palsy, micrognathia with macroglossia among other complications.

The parents were obviously devasted. They sued the imaging centre and claimed a hefty compensation.

It was alleged that the radiologist failed to detect and report the anomalies in either of the four USGs.

The radiologist and the imagine centre stated in defence that:

At any point in time during the four USGs, neither the gynaecologist nor the patient asked for level-II or anomaly scan / target scan.
The gynaecologist was aware that patient was elderly and had gestational diabetes. Incidences of congenital anomalies are 7-10 times higher in such patients.
The gynaecologist failed in advising 3D / 4D sonography.
There are also chances of congenital anomalies due to genetic mutations.
The Commission did not accept these submissions, and observed the following:

“All the four times USG performed by the radiologist were reported as normal. In the reports, there were no comments on the limbs. It is pertinent to note that the patient was thirty-seven years elderly. As per calculation her BMI was 28.7 kg/m2, she was overweight, but not obese. The gynaecologist’s role was limited, she advised Triple Markers, which were reported as normal. However, admittedly she had sent the patient for USG without specifying routine or target scan. Thus, the imaging centre’s defence that level-I scan was performed every time is not an accepted standard of practice. We do not find any merit in such vague submission”.

“It appears that the imaging centre is shifting the blame on gynaecologist. In our view, in absence of any referral from doctor, the ethical and legal duty casted upon radiologist is to take proper history, ascertain the gestational age and perform the relevant USG scan”.

Considering the child’s condition and life-long treatment expenses, the Commission awarded compensation of a whopping 1.25 crore rupees.

Source: Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 25th May, 2022.