Not performing ‘expansive diagnostic tests’ proves to be expensive for this doctor

  • Posted on: June 20, 2024

Suffering from fever, cough and vomiting, patient consulted the doctor who prescribed some medicines. But to no avail. The doctor added some more medicines, but it did not alleviate patient’s condition.

Several tests were performed, including Mantoux test. Although the test was negative for TB, the doctor started ATT treatment. Patient’s condition worsened.

He consulted several other doctors and hospitals. It was revealed that the liver was badly damaged due to ATT treatment. The patient eventually succumbed to complications. The cause of death was reported as ‘sepsis with multi-organ failure in a case of anti-tubercular drug induced – acute fulminant liver failure’. 

Patient’s family sued the doctor. The doctor denied any wrongdoing and stated that many tests were advised and line of treatment was changed during the course of time. He pointed out that ATT therapeutic trial was started due to following reasons:

  • India is still a country with endemic tuberculosis
  • In his long medical carrier spanning thirty years, he had seen many sputum negative, Mantoux negative TB patients, where only clinical suspicion and intuition yielded the desired recovery
  • Patient’s liver function test was almost normal

The Commission rejected doctor’s defence, as it observed that:

“In spite of test reports being negative for TB, the doctor started anti-tubercular as therapeutic trial on his clinical suspicion. Based on clinical suspicion, the doctor has right to use expansive diagnostic test and procedure, which are necessary to reach appropriate diagnosis of the suspected disease. But instead of coming to a conclusion about the disease, he started anti-tubercular as therapeutic trial ignoring test reports of negative TB”.

“The doctor is MBBS, MD in Cardiology and working as consultant physician and cardiologist for over 30 years. He preliminary diagnosed respiratory tract infection. If the medicines prescribed by him were not giving required result, he could have referred the patient to pulmonologist, instead of prescribing anti-tubercular as therapeutic trial on clinical suspicion, which only permit for expansive diagnostic test. When the patient reported to him with yellowish discolouration of the whole body and complained high coloured urine, then again, he committed negligence in visualising side of effects of anti-tubercular drugs and asked the patient to continue with same medicines, instead of stopping these medicines. From above evidence, it is proved that the doctor had committed gross negligence in treating the patient, which resulted in his death”.

The Commission held the doctor negligent for not referring the patient to a specialist and not performing expansive diagnostic tests. He was ordered to pay twenty-five lakh rupees to patient’s family!

Source : Order pronounced by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 11th September, 2023.