National Consumer Commission fines Apollo Hospital, Chennai, its two doctors ₹30 lakh

The NCDRC was hearing a case of negligence by the hospital staff in providing post-operative care to a patient after a surgery in April 2015.


Published Mar 06, 2024 | 12:58 AMUpdatedMar 06, 2024 | 9:46 AM

Doctor -Hospital (Shutterstock)

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has imposed a fine of ₹30 lakh on Apollo Speciality Hospital in Chennai and its two doctors in a case of medical negligence.

The NCDRC was hearing a complaint regarding negligence on the part of the hospital and the two doctors in providing post-operative care to a patient after a spinal surgery in April 2015.

The patient did not regain consciousness after the surgery and was in a vegetative state. He died during the pendency of the complaint in April 2017.

The NCDRC, headed by its president Justice A P Sahi, noted that the complaint was filed by the patient’s son and wife against Apollo Speciality Hospital, Chennai, Apollo Hospital Enterprise Ltd, consultant spine surgeon Sajan K Hegde and anaesthetist Dr Vasantha Roopan.

Advocate Madhukar Pandey appeared for the complainants.

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An incident of ‘clear negligent conduct’

According to the complaint, the patient underwent spinal surgery on 20 April, 2015, at Apollo Speciality Hospital in Chennai but never regained consciousness due to the negligence of the hospital and doctors.

Noting the sequence of events, the commission said the patient failed to regain consciousness after the surgery after being extubated (removal of the tube which helps a patient breathe during surgery).

It said the advice for reintubating the patient, which was given at 4 pm on the same day, was not followed promptly.

“It is not understood as to why the anaesthetist did not attempt this and instead opted to wait for the CT scan,” the commission said, adding, “There is no evidence of any active role being performed till 9 pm with no plausible explanation as to why the patient was left without intubation.”

In its order dated 26 February, the NCDRC said the waiting period of around five hours, despite the advice of reintubation, was “in all probability fatal for the patient”.

The commission underlined that there was “a clear negligent conduct” by the anaesthetist and other hospital staff who were attending to the patient.

It said the hospital staff responded only when the patient slipped into complete coma.

“The surgeon has also not come forward to offer any plausible explanation as to why his own advice for reintubation was not followed or pursued by him when the patient was unresponsive and remained unconscious,” the commission said.

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Compensation to family members

“The negligence is therefore proved and consequently, there is a failure on the part of the anaesthetist in not having attended to the patient promptly, diligently and skillfully and allowed him to embrace a permanent vegetative state due to such negligence,” it added.

The surgeon was also “vicariously liable” and as the staff did not carry out his advice, the hospital was also liable for the negligence, the NCDRC said.

“It would be appropriate to award ₹10 lakh as damages for deficiency in services on anaesthetist Dr Vasantha Roopan, ₹5 lakh on Dr KS Hegde for his vicarious role and ₹15 lakh on the hospital for having allowed this situation to precipitate causing irreparable loss to the patient and consequential loss and suffering to the members of his family,” the commission said.

It also awarded ₹50,000 as litigation costs to the complainants.

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