Where is expert in the expert opinion, questions the court

  • Posted on: June 18, 2018

It is ideal to present the opinion of a specialist when presenting an expert opinion in a case of medical negligence. The courts do not consider expert opinion of a doctor who may not belong to the branch / speciality, as this case demonstrates.

Debnath’s right leg was fractured in an unfortunate accident, and hence he approached Dr. Patra at Dreamland Nursing home. The doctor performed intramedullary nailing and discharged the patient four days after the procedure. However, the patient didn’t get any relief after the surgery and visited another doctor who advised a test to check haemoglobin level, which was reported below the normal level.

Debnath visited Dr. Patra again with the report but the doctor only removed stitches from the operated site and asked him to visit a month and half later for follow up. Unable to bear the continued suffering, the patient visited yet another doctor who diagnosed implant failure and performed another procedure after which his condition improved significantly.

Debnath was sure that it was Dr. Patra’s mistake due to which he suffered for a longer period. He approached State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal and made several allegations.

At the outset, it was alleged that at the time of procedure, the doctor did not check the haemoglobin level and corrected his mistake only when it was reported lower than normal. Moreover, the diagnosis of implant failure clearly indicated negligence on his part, claimed the patient.

Dr. Patra’s first line of defence was an expert opinion that absolved him of negligence. The doctor also stated that intramedullary nailing was the most common procedure for treating femur fracture which takes about four to six months of healing. The patient visited another doctor without waiting for the said period who performed the second procedure. Moreover, he administered medicines and an injection to raise the haemoglobin level. I took all necessary steps, the allegations are baseless, concluded the doctor.

The Commission was perhaps bemused by the doctor’s claim, and there were good reasons for it. Firstly, there was no record of doctor prescribing medicines or injection to raise the haemoglobin level. Secondly, the Commission observed that the expert whose opinion the doctor sought and produced was not an orthopaedic specialist and hence it could not be considered.

The court declared Dr. Patra and Dreamland Nursing home guilty of medical negligence and ordered to compensate three lakh rupees to the patient.

Source: Order pronounced by State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, West Bengal on 11th May, 2018