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Episiotomy done by Pharmacist: Delhi Hospital told to pay compensation for medical negligence

Based on a report from the Delhi Medical Council (DMC), the District Commission had found that the hospital was at fault for medical negligence

Episiotomy done by Pharmacist: Delhi Hospital told to pay compensation for medical negligence

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has upheld the decision of the District Commission that found a Delhi-based hospital negligent in allowing a person who was only a pharmacist and not a qualified medical practitioner to perform surgery and suturing, during which the needle was left in the patient's abdomen.

Based on a report from the Delhi Medical Council (DMC), the District Commission had found that the hospital was at fault for medical negligence, and therefore directed to pay Rs 3,00,000 as compensation to the patient.

Subhash Chandra, Presiding Member of the Commission was looking into a revision petition filed by Shree Jeewan Hospital, New Rohtak Road that challenged the order issued by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Delhi.

The State Commission had dismissed the petitioner's appeal against the order of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (Central), Kashmere Gate, Delhi.

The impugned order upheld the District Forum's decision, and punitive costs were imposed on the petitioner.

The case originated from an incident on September 15, 2009, when the patient was admitted to the hospital for childbirth.

However, during the childbirth process, while the doctors were stitching her up, they accidentally left a needle inside her uterus.

This led to severe bleeding and caused her a lot of pain and emotional distress throughout the night.

The problem was not discovered until the evening of September 16, 2009, when an X-ray was taken.

The X-ray showed that a needle had been left inside the woman's uterus.Consequently, a surgery was performed to remove the needle on the same day.

Later, on November 24, 2009, the woman underwent an ultrasound of her abdomen.

The ultrasound revealed that her uterus had retroflexed, which means it had an abnormal backward tilt.

Medical experts suggested that this condition might prevent her from conceiving in the future.

The woman alleged that these complications were a result of negligence on the part of the hospital.

Aggrieved, the woman filed a complaint against the hospital with the District Forum, seeking Rs 10,00,000 as compensation for her suffering.

The District Forum conducted an investigation, and based on a report from the Delhi Medical Council, they found that the hospital was indeed at fault for medical negligence.

The District Forum awarded the patient Rs 3,00,000 as compensation for the distress, pain, and mental agony she endured. They also ordered the hospital to pay Rs 10,000 for her legal costs.

Unsatisfied with this decision, the hospital appealed the case to the State Commission. However, the State Commission not only upheld the District Forum's decision but also added more charges against the hospital.

They instructed the hospital to deposit a significant amount of money in the State Consumer Welfare Fund, totaling Rs 30,00,000.

Still dissatisfied with the decision, the Shree Jeewan Hospital filed a revision petition under the Consumer Protection Act, claiming that the punishments imposed on the hospital were too severe.

NCDRC carefully examined the arguments presented by both sides and the available evidence, and noted the findings of the District Forum and State Commission.

The District Forum, serving as the initial adjudicating authority in the case, reached several conclusions.

It determined that the hospital's reliance on the Delhi Medical Council's opinion was unjustified, emphasizing the noted adverse effects of the needle left in the patient's body, including significant pain, mental distress, and increased bleeding.

The Forum asserted that the suffering could have been avoided with greater care from the hospital's doctors.

While the complainant's assertion that the needle caused her uterus to retroflex lacked substantial evidence, with a report from the Banwari Lal Charitable Imaging Center not conclusively linking it to the needle, the Forum acknowledged that other factors could contribute to the retroflexion.

Additionally, the complainant's lack of expert opinion, beyond her own statement, was noted, though the Forum maintained that the complaint of medical negligence, causing suffering and mental agony, was valid, despite the absence of extra charges. Consequently, the complaint was upheld, accompanied by specific directions to the hospital.

On the other hand, in its decision, the State Commission raised significant additional concerns regarding the hospital's actions.

Firstly, they questioned the hospital's choice of a pharmacist rather than a qualified doctor, particularly for a procedure that traditionally requires a skilled and well-compensated medical professional.

The lack of clarity on how many similar procedures the pharmacist had conducted further raised doubts.

The absence of clinical notes indicating the needle left during the stitching procedure, coupled with discrepancies in the authorship of medical records, added to the hospital's negligence. but

The failure to inform the patient about the needle left in her body, the absence of planned X-rays, and the delayed recommendation for an X-ray when the patient complained of severe pain reflected inadequate communication and responsiveness.

The discovery of a complete needle in the patient's X-ray highlighted the hospital's gross negligence.

Moreover, allegations of record manipulation to conceal the absence of a qualified doctor during delivery and the hospital's deficiency in service for having a non-operational X-ray machine when urgently needed further undermined the hospital's credibility and accountability.

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