Patient’s life in danger? Focus on performing life-saving procedure!

  • Posted on: October 15, 2019

Can doctors perform an emergency procedure or intervention without taking consent of the patient or relatives? Yes, they can, provided that the procedure or intervention to save life or limb of the patient is inevitable. This case demonstrates that law is well settled on this aspect.

Shashikala was diagnosed with cancer in the right breast for which she underwent modified radical mastectomy. She received three sessions of chemotherapy at the hospital. A decision was taken to insert a chemotherapy port for two subsequent sessions.

Dr. Khan, while performing surgery to insert the port, noticed that the right subclavian vein was injured which had to be repaired immediately, which he and the team of doctors successfully did. The procedure lasted for about four hours and the patient’s relatives were appraised about the situation. Shashikala’s husband, a pathologist, didn’t seem to agree with the procedure adopted, and dragged Dr. Khan to State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra on the ground that an informed consent was not obtained before performing thoracotomy to repair the subclavian vein.

It was also alleged that Dr. Khan was not competent to perform the procedure as he was not an oncologist.

Dr. Khan pointed out that inserting the chemotherapy port required a general surgeon and not an oncologist as claimed by the patient’s husband. He presented medical records to substantiate why thoracotomy was performed without taking consent.

The Commission observed that the thoracotomy procedure had to be performed immediately as the subclavian vein had sustained injury and wasting time in repairing it could have turned to be fatal for the patient. The Commission agreed to Dr. Khan’s statement that insertion of chemotherapy port didn’t require services of an oncologist as claimed in the allegation.

Hence, the doctor was held not negligent by the Commission.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Maharashtra on 2nd May, 2019