The Supreme Court Bench of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, whilst hearing an appeal filed by a man against the order of the NCDRC, held that wrong diagnosis by the doctor cannot amount to medical negligence committed by such a doctor. The Appellant had filed a complaint with the State Consumer Forum on the following grounds:
- inappropriate and ineffective medication;
- failure to restart the cannula for IV medication;
- premature discharge of the deceased despite her condition warranting treatment in the ICU;
- oral administration of Polypod antibiotic, despite her critical condition, which actually required intravenous administration of the medicine.
The State Commission found in favour of the appellant and passed an order to the tune of Rs. 15 Lakhs in favour of the appellant. However, the said order was set aside by the NCDRC stating that the said case warranted for a situation of wrong diagnosis and not medical negligence.
The Bench firstly referred to the definition of negligence as stated in the Halsbury’s Laws of England as well as in the judgment of Kusum Sharma & Ors. v. Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre & Ors. (2010) 3 SCC 480 as under:
“22. Negligence. – Duties owed to patient. A person who holds himself out as ready to give medical advice or treatment impliedly undertakes that he is possessed of skill and knowledge for the purpose. Such a person, whether he is a registered medical practitioner or not, who is consulted by a patient, owes him certain duties, namely, a duty of care in deciding whether to undertake the case; a duty of care in deciding what treatment to give; and a duty of care in his administration of that treatment. A breach of any of these duties will support an action for negligence by the patient”.
The Bench further referred to the judgments in Bolam v. Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) 1 WLR 582 and Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab (2005) 6 SCC which elaborated on the scope of medical negligence attributable to the skills of a doctor. The Bench, whilst empathizing with the appellant’s loss, upheld the order of the NCDRC and held that:
“16. In our opinion the approach adopted by the NCDRC cannot be said to be faulty, while dealing with the role of the State Commission, which granted damages on a premise that respondent No.2-Doctor could have pursued an alternative mode of treatment. Such a course of action, as a super-appellate medical authority, could not have been performed by the State Commission. There was no evidence to show any unexplained deviation from standard protocol. It is also relevant to note that the deceased was medically compromised by the reason of her past illnesses. The deceased was admitted to two other hospitals, post her discharge from respondent No.1-Hospital. The moot point was whether her admittance and discharge from respondent No.1-Hospital was the sole, or even the most likely cause of her death. The death had been caused by a multiplicity of factors. In the end, we may also note that the medical certificate issued for the cause of death by Fortis Escorts Hospital cited septic shock due to multiple organ failure as the immediate cause of death, with her diabetic condition being an antecedent cause, as also the multiple malignancies, post chemotherapy and radiotherapy all contributing to her passing away.”
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