An unsuccessful sterilization procedure does not necessarily imply that the attending doctors were negligent; Delhi High Court [Read the Judgment]

An unsuccessful sterilization procedure does not necessarily imply that the attending doctors were negligent; Delhi High Court [Read the Judgment]

"An unsuccessful sterilisation procedure does not necessarily imply that the attending doctors were negligent,", pronounced the Delhi High Court. The judgment, authored by Justice Vibhu Bakhru thus effectively says that doctors are not liable for the success of the sterilisation procedure.

The case arose when a woman moved to court after she had a third child, which she alleged was only due to medical negligence as she had gone through the sterilisation operation. The woman claimed that she had undergone the sterilisation operation at Lok Nayak Hospital in New Delhi for a sterilisation procedure after birth of her second child. The operation took place in June 2010 and a certificate was also given to her.

However, seemingly, the sterilisation operation was not successful and the woman delivered her third child in October 2012. It is however true that she was informed about the pregnancy in March 2012 and she chose to continue with the same.

After the birth of her third child, the woman approached the Court with a claim of Rs.60.5 lakh as compensation for the doctors' negligence and as the claim for bringing up the child.

The judgment notes the arguments put forward by the Petitioner, it states “The  learned  counsel  for  the  petitioner  has  contended  that  the procedure  adopted  for  sterilization  was  of  ligation  fallopian  tubes  by modified pomroye’s  method. He states that the possibility of failure of this method is the negligible as it entails ligation of fallopian tubes. The learned counsel  for  the  petitioner  further  submitted  that  the  doctors  were  clearly negligent in performing this operation as subsequently, it was found that the right side fallopian  tube was  intact.”

Meanwhile, the hospital claimed that there was no medical negligence in the case and there always exists a chance of the operation failing, about which the woman was informed beforehand. The woman had also signed before being operated that she was aware about such happening.

Pronouncing the judgment, the Court said "I am unable to accept the contention that the negligence of attending doctors  is  established  in  the  given  facts  and  circumstances  of  this  case. There  is  no  material  on  record  which  would  justify  the  finding  that  the attending  doctors  were  negligent  in  performing  the  sterilization  operation on the petitioner. The petitioner’s discharge slip issued by the hospital on 05.10.2012  also  does  not  lead  to  the  conclusion  that  no  procedure  was carried out on the right side  fallopian  tube of the petitioner. The noting in the discharge slip  – “R side tube seen in entire length intact method legated by  modified  pomerey  and  technique”  does  not  clearly  establish  that  no procedure  had  been  carried  out  on  the  right  side  fallopian  tube  of  the petitioner. “

The Court went on to say, “The “Application for Vasectomy/tubectomy operation and Letter of Consent”  clearly  indicates  that  the  petitioner  was  aware  not  only  of  the chances  of  failure  of  the  procedure  undertaken  by  her  but  the  same  also records that the petitioner was agreeable to receive  `20,000/-  in the event the  operation  failed.”

The Court then relied on the judgment by the Supreme Court in Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab [(2005) 6 SCC 1], wherein the Apex court had approved the tests relating to medical negligence which were laid down in Bolam v. Friern  Hospital  Management  Committee:  (1957)  2  AII  ER  118  (QBD).

The judgment noted, “The petitioner had unequivocally agreed that she would not be entitled to file any suit for any compensation other than under the Family Planning Insurance Scheme. It was also clearly stated  in the consent form that  she  would  not  seek  compensation  for  maintenance  of  the  child. In view of her accepting the terms for the operation conducted by respondent no.2, the claim for  petitioner for upbringing a child or for compensation on account  of  failure  of  the  sterilization  procedure  cannot  be  entertained  in these proceedings.“

However, Justice Bakhru did order that the woman be given Rs. 20,000/- under the family planning insurance scheme of the government for care of the child.

Live Law also covered the issue of medical negligence in Anuradha Saha medical negligence case.