The Supreme Court verdict, awarding Rs. 6,08,00,550 as compensation to in a case of medical negligence that resulted in the death of his wife would change the way compensation in such cases is decided in India, Indian American Kunal Saha said Friday.
The apex court ordered the Kolkata-based Advance Medicare Research Institute (AMRI) to pay for medical negligence resulting in Saha’s wife Anuradha’s death in 1988.
Speaking to the media from US via Skype, Saha, a doctor, said the Supreme Court took up eight specific questions. As a consequence of the historic judgement, even if a child or young student died from negligence, his potential income in future – and not income at the time of death – should be considered for calculation of compensation.
He said the claim made in the original petition must be proportionately increased, considering inflation and devaluation of money for the long period of delay in every case.
He explained that the original claim may be increased at any stage during litigation, even without amendments or pleadings, and the appropriate rate of interest must be added in all cases of medical negligence from the day of filing of the case.
Saha pointed out that the status of the treating doctors as also the hospital should be taken into consideration in computing the compensation amount.
“Enhanced compensation should be paid for medical negligence cases against more reputed doctors and hospitals,” he said.
Saha, who made frequent trips to India for the case from the US, and incurred substantial legal expenses, said that as per the judgement, “appropriate level of lawyers’ fees and legal expenses must be reimbursed by the guilty doctors/hospital”.
He said that in the wake of the judgement, hospitals were vicariously liable to pay compensation.
“While doctors may be punished for their negligent act, the hospital must pay the lion’s share of the compensation for their vicarious liability,” he said.
With the compensation award in the case being around Rs.11 crore including interest, making the compensation amount the highest in Indian medico-legal history, Saha alleged that the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and private hospitals have started crying foul.
“They want a cap on the compensation amount even when they are responsible for death of a patient. Will IMA ever support a cap on the cost that private hospitals charge the vulnerable patients? Putting a cap or limit on the amount of compensation in medical negligence cases would amount to giving free rein to the wealthy doctor and hospitals to become more reckless in their treatment,” he said.
Saha accused IMA and other leaders of medical groups of spreading “baseless fear” that the large compensation would lead to the practice of “defensive medicine” by Indian doctors.
“IMA leaders are spreading fear that doctors will prescribe more investigation and medical tests for their patients in order to avoid lawsuits. Does anyone believe that doctors were prescribing less investigation until now, only to save patients’ money?” he asked.
“Complaints against doctors have nothing to do with advising more investigation,” he said.
Saha said he would use the compensation amount to help patients and their families fight medical negligence cases and help out sick children after taking reimbursement of the expenses he had incurred on legal and travel expenses.
A bench of Justice C.K. Prasad and Justice V. Gopala Gowda passed the order Oct 24 in their judgment on an appeal by Saha, challenging the compensation of Rs.1.72 crore awarded by National Consumer Forum.
Cross appeals were also filed by AMRI and three doctors against the forum’s award.