31 Aug 2023 2:30 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) to re-adjudicate a case concerning the death of a pregnant doctor, who unfortunately passed away after being made to wait and thereafter being refused admission by various clinical establishments (“CEs”).The plea moved by one of the accused clinical...
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) to re-adjudicate a case concerning the death of a pregnant doctor, who unfortunately passed away after being made to wait and thereafter being refused admission by various clinical establishments (“CEs”).
The plea moved by one of the accused clinical establishments (“BNWCCC”) averred that they were the only ones made liable for medical negligence, whereas two other hospitals who had also turned a blind eye to the deceased were given a clean chit.
A single-bench of Justice Sabysachi Bhattacharya directed the Commission to re-examine the matter and held:
Accordingly, WPA No.16381 of 2021 is allowed, thereby setting aside the impugned award passed the respondent no.1 Commission dated September 6, 2021 on the sad demise of Dr. Shraddha Bhutra. The matter is remanded to the respondent no.1-Commission for a re-adjudication, upon giving opportunity to the parties to produce further evidence to substantiate their cases and for a fresh decision on the issue as to the compensation to be awarded against the BNWCCC and/or Belle Vue Clinic in the facts and circumstances of the case, in the light of the observations as made hereinabove. It is expected that the Commission shall complete such re-adjudication at the earliest, preferably within three months from the date of communication of this order to the Commission.
It was argued by the petitioner, that the deceased was due to deliver on 12th June 2021, but on 24th April at around 10pm, had experienced severe pain in her abdomen, as a result of which her doctor, one Dr Supriya Khetan had been contacted.
It was submitted that Dr Khetan refused to visit the patient at her home, and advised for admission to Apollo Hospital, who became the first to turn away the patient on the pretext that they were full with COVID patients, and it would be risky to admit a pregnant patient.
Thereafter, the deceased was rushed to Neotia hospital (“BNWCCC”), around 11pm, where admission was refused on the ground that Dr Khetan had instructed not to admit the patient to that particular hospital.
It was submitted that, after waiting for 45 minutes, the patient was taken to Belle Vue Clinic around 11:55pm, in a degrading state, and even Belle Vue refused admission till 12:30am, after which they reluctantly admitted her upon threats of social media publicity, and phone calls from the local police station, where she eventually passed away at 11:30am the next day.
It was argued by the petitioner that various hospitals such as Appollo and Belle Vue had shirked their duty towards the petitioner, and that no action was initiated against them.
It was submitted that the petitioner had provided all assistance including taking the deceased’s blood pressure, administering preliminary treatment as well as providing the ambulance in which she was later taken to Belle Vue.
Petitioners argued that they could not be blamed for the negligence of Dr Supriya Khetan, the attending doctor, who had asked them not to admit her into the hospital due to lack of facilities.
The Respondent-medical commission on the other hand, argued that along the lines of various SC judgements, a human life would be of paramount importance, and that it would be the top priority of medical professionals to treat any one who is in need of their assistance.
It was argued that the BNWCCC did not provide immediate or basic treatment to the petitioner, thereby failing their obligation as medical professionals.
Respondents submitted that the “callous attitude” of the BNWCCC in not admitting the deceased at a crucial juncture, and keeping her waiting for 45 minutes led to the unfortunate fatality.
HIGH COURT VERDICT
Upon hearing the submissions of both parties, the Court looked at the cause of death of the deceased, and opined that the same occurred due to highly preventable causes:
It transpires that the patient, even as per the report of an expert on which the Commission relied, was suffering from Eclampsia, which is a pregnancy-induced hyper-tensive disorder with super imposed seizures/convulsions, which is largely preventable. As per the report, there is a WHO (World Health Organisation)-designed effective “Anti-Convulsion Tranquilizer Therapy‟ in Eclampsia and other anti-convulsant regimes. It was further observed in the report that each transfer and transport had added to the seriousness and severity of Eclampsia.
Court further noted that while Dr Khetan had advised for the patient to be admitted to Apollo Hospital, she was refused admission on grounds of it being full with COVID patients.
Court expressed surprise that no complaint had been lodged against Appollo, being the first CE to refuse admission, since there is nothing on record to indicate that, despite there being several Covid patients, there was no infrastructure at Apollo at the relevant juncture to admit a pregnant lady, having convulsions and serious neurological complication.
Since the patient’s family disputed taking her to Apollo and refused to file a complaint against the CE, the Court concluded that there could be no further action taken against them.
While addressing the Belle Vue clinic’s role, the Court was of the opinion that it ought not to have been given a clean chit by the Commission. It held:
From the above circumstances, it is clear that Belle Vue kept the patient waiting for at least 35 minutes at a crucial juncture, immediately after which the patient met her demise. The medical note written there shows diagnosis of pre-Eclampsia with convulsion/seizure at 10:15 p.m. Still the patient was kept waiting without any medication and treatment for over half an hour, as alleged. The patient was eventually admitted in Belle Vue on the threat of exposure in the social media and a telephone call from the local police station at Shakespeare Sarani. An attempt for resuscitation was done then, but was little too late. Eclampsia, it was observed in the report, was largely preventable. Such apathy on the part of the Belle Vue, keeping in mind that the admission there took place only upon social media inducement, ought not to have been pardoned by the Commission while assessing compensation.
In deal ing with the role of the petitioner in the unfortunate events, the Court opined that while the petitioner was admittedly a multi-speciality hospital, it would need to be examined whether they provided all possible care to the deceased while keeping her waiting for around 45 minutes.
It was further observed that the Commission did not take note of the phone call between the petitioners and Dr Khetan wherein she asked for the patient to be denied admission since BNWCCC “did not have a proper ICU.” Thereby making a prima facie case that the petitioners could not take the entire blame for the sad demise.
Accordingly, while observing that the findings of the Commission could not be sustained in light of the aforesaid observations, the Court directed for a re-adjudication on the compensation claim made by the deceased’s husband, to be completed within 3 months.
Case: Park Hospitals and another Vs. The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission and another
Coram: Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 252
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