While apathy can be as crude as serving soup in a rusted container to a cancer patient, it can also be as mind-numbing as handing over ‘dead’ babies in a bag even when one was alive! But a landmark judgement by Delhi consumer court restores our faith in the judiciary. It’s a classic case of a common man fighting against a mighty and powerful hospital and bringing it down to its knees.
In a recent judgement, Delhi State Consumer Redressal Commission has told Batra Hospital to pay ₹10 lakh as compensation to a patient for doing an operation without taking consent.
The case dates back to 2002, when the patient Mr. Dilip Kumar Goswami from Assam visited Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Delhi to undergo a regular checkup because he was suspected as suffering from Wolff–Parkinson–White (WPW) syndrome.
The attending cardiologist Dr. Upendra Kaul asked him to undergo Electro Physiology Study (EPS) for detection of WPW syndrome.
Dr. Kaul also told the patient that in case EPS study suggested that Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA: is one of the numerous treatments for WPW syndrome) is fit for the patient, it will be resorted to. He was also told that in case the EPS suggest that the case doesn’t require RFA or the physical condition did not permit RFA, alternative treatment would be advised.
The patient, Mr. Goswami went to the operation theatre knowing that only EPS will be done, as discussed. But to his horror, Dr. Kaul and his team at the Batra Hospital not only did EPS, but also went ahead with RFA without discussing or taking consent from the conscious patient.
To make matters worse, the patient was told that during RFA (for which permission/consent wasn’t taken) there was a heart blockage and to save his life a temporary pacemaker has been installed.
The patient was taken aback at this disclosure. But wait, there’s more. He was asked to deposit ₹1.7 lakh immediately to implant a permanent pacemaker, else he’d simply die. In the state of shock and fear of death, the patient complied & called his wife to travel from Assam to Delhi the next day due to this grave negligence and emergency.
Mrs. Goswami, while speaking to the media said,
“He went to Delhi for a regular checkup. He went all alone. And suddenly, I received a call from the hospital that my husband is fighting for his life and we need to pay 1.7 lakh immediately to put a pacemaker else he’ll die. My family was petrified. It was like putting a gun to my head.”
Upon realizing their goof-up, the hospital implanted the pacemaker even before his wife could reach the hospital the next day.
But the horror doesn’t end here. While implanting the pacemaker, one of its lead had pierced the heart and made a hole in it. The patient was discharged; doctors ignorant of this piercing. Only after the patient’s chest area had swollen, he travelled to Delhi alarmed. He was advised an immediate open heart surgery or else at any moment there might intense bleeding leading to death.
Moreover, Batra Hospital refused to submit ECG traces report to the court when asked. It made the court suspicious of malicious intent. In its judgement, Judge N P Kaushik remarked,
Batra hospital used only one consent form for EPS and kept the patient and his family in the dark about the different kinds of risks involved. Hence, taking into consideration so many breaches the bench concluded that the hospital was clearly ‘deficient in service‘ and stated,
It should be noted that Batra Hospital has a list of medical negligence cases against them.
In 2017, it was ordered to pay ₹8 lakhs as compensation after a woman lost her life 10 minutes after ill-conducting a CT Scan Contrast Media Test. In 2018, the hospital was fined ₹5 lakhs for keeping a brain-dead boy alive without taking proper consent. In 2012, the doctor Upendra Kaul, in this case, was ordered to pay ₹2 lakh as compensation to the family of Asha Mathur, who had died immediately after an angioplasty procedure in March, 1994 due to his grave negligence.
It’s disheartening to know that the patient had already passed away in 2015 without getting justice in his lifetime, in spite of fighting for over a decade. But this judgement is a testimony to two truths; first, we should keep fighting for what’s right even if it stretches for 14 years and second, hospitals shouldn’t take patients for granted unless they want to awaken the wrath of the simple common man.