The Supreme Court’s judgement on October 24, 2013, with regard to Anuradha’s death because of ‘medical negligence’ was a landmark judgment. This judgment was path breaking, not because of the volume of compensation but because this will go a long way in acting as a deterrent against those errant doctors and hospitals who think that they can go scott-free with medical negligence.
There was a time when, if one was ill he was forced to travel miles to get himself admitted to a hospital. Today, after 66 years of independence, thing have changed. Multi-speciality hospitals are mushrooming in every nook and corner of all the major cities in India. Surely, the physical distance has been reduced, but these hospitals charge exorbitant amount of money for the services being provided by them, in essence still remaining far beyond the reach of the ordinary individual. However, if by any means they manage to gather the required amount, chances of death due to medical negligence are very high.
Unfortunately, the concessions that these hospitals get are not being passed on to the common man. These hospitals charge a hefty fee from a patient who comes to them for even a normal check up. Secondly, if the doctor prescribes medicines then hell breaks loose for this poor man because the medicines prescribed are not only costly, but they are out of reach for them and they have no choice but to purchase it from hospital’s medical store.
It is even more heart breaking when one loses his near and dear ones because of ‘medical negligence’ even after bearing the all the tantrums of these so-called multi-specialty hospitals. In 1998, Anuradha had just completed all requirements for becoming a ‘Child Psychologist’ from Columbia University and had come come down to Kolkatta to seek her mother’s blessing before starting her career in the United States. During her stay in the city of joy, she developed a simple skin rash and on April 25 in the same year consulted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, who, without getting into the nitigrities of the cause, advised her to take rest and later prescribed Depomedrol injections (80 mg) to be taken twice a day.
Anuradha’s condition worsened after taking the prescribed dosage and on May 11, 1998, she was admitted at the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) under Dr Mukherjee’s supervision. When things got out of control, she was shifted to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, where she was diagnosed with a rare and deadly skin disease called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.
The 29-year-old could not survive the ill effects of the disease and on May 28, 1998 she breathed her last. Anuradha’s death shook her husband Kunal Shah who is himself a practicing doctor in the United States. After 15 year long legal battle, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgement in his favour which has made the entire medical community to sit up and take note.
The condition in Government hospitals is even worse, as most of the time, doctors are absent in these hospitals and if by chance, the doctor is present, the medicine prescribed is not available in the market. In premier Government hospitals like AIIMS, several patients and some with deadly diseases like cancer wait for days outside the hospital to get a bed. Anuradha’s case is a one off case in the long list of medico-legal cases awaiting justice.