Doctors not liable for outcome of surgery

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The Supreme Court of India recently held that a surgeon or a doctor cannot guarantee that the result of surgery would invariably be beneficial, much less to the extent of 100% for the person operated on.

In Dr SK Jhunjhunwala v Mrs Dhanwanti Kumar, the appellant, Dr Jhunjhunwala, a doctor by profession had been practising medicine in Calcutta since 1969. In 1996, the complainant felt a pain in her abdomen and consulted the doctor who diagnosed stones in her gall bladder and then performed a laparoscopy and open surgery to remove her gall bladder. Subsequently, the complainant filed a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, against the doctor claiming compensation for loss, mental suffering and pain suffered by her after the surgery. The complaint was that the doctor had been negligent because he performed general surgery on her gall bladder but she had only given consent to have the laparoscopy surgery. While the District Consumer Forum and the State Commission did not find merit in the complaint, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi reversed the findings and found the doctor guilty of medical negligence and awarded compensation of ₹200,000 (US$2700).

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The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at lbhasin@bhasinco.in or lbhasin@gmail.com. Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.

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