The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) bench comprising presiding member Dr. S.M. Kantikar focused on the duty of the civil society to ensure that medical professionals are not unnecessarily harassed or humiliated. The complaint filed by the patient was dismissed on the ground that firstly, the doctors possessed necessary skills and secondly, reasonable care was taken by them while performing the operation of the twin babies. The unfortunate death of one of the twins was attributed to the patient herself who could not take precautions and failed to follow the instructions.
Dr. Ishita Tikka (“patient”) was under antenatal care of one of the doctors in Apollo Cradle Hospital, Amritsar. It was a twin pregnancy and one of the twins was diagnosed with ‘esophageal atresia’ before birth only. Therefore, Doctor concerned performed a pre-term delivery using cesarean section. It was alleged by the patient that without examining, Doctor performed cesarean section and forced for pre-term twin delivery by putting high risk to the new born twins. The patient’s husband, being a doctor himself, alleged that he noticed through the glass window that proper care was not taken. There was just one nurse who was busy on her phone. Further, the area was kept very unhygienic because of which the babies developed pneumonia and septicaemia. Under critical conditions, the babies were shifted to another hospital wherein one of the twins died because of infection which was allegedly caused at Apollo Cradle. Thus, the patient filed this complaint under Section 21(A)(i) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (“the Act”) against Apollo Cradle, Amritsar and its 3 doctors for alleged medical negligence causing her pre-term twin delivery death of one of the twins.
The Opposite Parties contended that the patient, herself being a doctor, did not follow the pre-requisite scans and instructions, which ipso facto itself was negligence. Several steps of medication could have been taken but the patient’s husband refused to consent. The husband of the patient also interfered with the treatment at several stages.
The NCDRC perused the medical record and observed that when the cardiac defects and anatomical malformations in one of the twins was informed to the husband of the patient, instead of giving consent to the medication and treatment, the husband and his relatives started finding faults in the Opposing party. The Commission further relied upon the reputed book named ‘William’s Obstetrics (21st edition) and Pediatric Surgery’ by Benson and held that the act of the opposite party was not intentional and right steps were taken to control the infection. Further, the bench relied upon the AIIMS Protocol of Neonatology which revealed that the early onset neonatal sepsis occurs due to infection of maternal origin and thus, it was observed that it was not an acquired hospital infection. In fact, gross medical negligence was established on the part of the patient’s husband who interfered in the treatment and even administered certain injections himself.
Reliance was placed on the recent Supreme Court decision in Chanda Rani Akhouri vs M.S. Methusethupathi Mithupathi (2021) 10 SCC 291 wherein the court held that no doctor can ensure a full recovery in every case. Liability would only come if:
- Either a person (doctor) did not possess the requisite skills in the branch of the profession;
- Or, he did not exercise with reasonable competence in the given case the skill which he did possess.
It was held that simple lack of care, an error in judgment or an accident, is not proof of negligence on the part of the medical professional. With the aforementioned findings, the NCDRC held that the complainant was trying to levy false and misconceived allegation against the hospital. The treating doctors and the Hospital were absolved of any liabilities.
Case: Dr. Ishita Tikkha vs Managing Director, Apollo Cradle and others Case No.:
Consumer Case No. 1405 of 2019