Top Stories

'Wrong Diagnosis' Does Not Amount To Medical Negligence: SC [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
25 Feb 2019 2:01 PM GMT

"We have sympathy for the appellant, but sympathy cannot translate into a legal remedy."

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?
The Supreme Court, on Monday, dismissed the appeal filed by a man against order of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which dismissed his complaint alleging medical negligence on the part of a hospital in the death of his wife.

We have sympathy for the appellant, but sympathy cannot translate into a legal remedy, said the bench comprising of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul while upholding the NCDRC order which had held that the case 'would at best be a case of wrong diagnosis, if that; it certainly cannot be called medical negligence'.

In his complaint, Vinod Jain had alleged that the following acts and omissions on part of the hospital constituted medical negligence: (a) inappropriate and ineffective medication; (b) failure to restart the cannula for IV medication; (c) premature discharge of the deceased despite her condition warranting treatment in the ICU; (d) oral administration of Polypod antibiotic, despite her critical condition, which actually required intravenous administration of the medicine. Though the state commission allowed his complaint and ordered a compensation of Rs.15 lakh, the national commission had set it aside.

The Apex Court bench, while considering his appeal, discussed the legal principles which would apply in cases of medical negligence (Bolam Test, Kusum Sharma & Ors. v. Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre and Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab).

According to complainant, in the early hours on the next day, on 16.10.2011, the cannula stopped functioning and instead of re-cannulating the patient, oral administration of the antibiotic Polypod was found justified. It is this aspect, which according to the appellant, amounts to medical negligence.

The bench agreed with approach adopted by the NCDRC in dealing with this contention and said: "The explanation offered by respondent No.2-Doctor was that when he attended the patient at 11:00 a.m. on 16.10.2011, he found that the drip 10 had been disconnected, on account of all peripheral veins being blocked due to past chemotherapies, and that the drip had been stopped, the night before itself, at the instance of the appellant. Taking into consideration the fact that the patient was normal, afebrile, well-hydrated and displayed normal vitals, the oral administration of the tablet was prescribed. This, according to the NCDRC was the professional and medical assessment by respondent No.2-Doctor, arrived at on the basis of a medical condition of the patient, and could not constitute medical negligence"

The court further observed: "In the perception of the doctor, the increase in lymphocytes in the blood count was the result of the patient displaying an improved immune response to the infection. It is in this context that the NCDRC opined that at best, it could be categorised as a possible case of wrong diagnosis... 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."

The court, while dismissing the appeal, observed that it appreciates the pain of the appellant, but then, that by itself cannot be a cause for awarding damages for the passing away of his wife.                                

Read SC Judgment


Read NCDRC Order


Next Story