Medical negligence: A hypocritical oath?

By Vivek Vashi and Shreya Gupta, Bharucha & Partners

True to the maxim “justice must not only be done, it must also appear to be done” the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment on 24 October, boldly awarded a record sum of ₹60.8 million (US$965,000) to Dr Kunal Saha in a medical negligence claim. In awarding such a large amount the court has departed from its previous view in favour of medical professionals in the hope that it will have a deterring effect on negligent doctors.

In Dr Balram Prasad v Dr Kunal Saha and Ors, Dr Saha brought a case against Advanced Medicare & Research Institute (AMRI), a Kolkata-based hospital, and three doctors for compensation to the tune of ₹970.7 million for deficiency in medical services provided by them which ultimately led to the untimely demise of his wife.

Brief facts

Dr Saha and his wife, residents of the US, visited India in March 1998. Mrs Saha developed acute pain, fever and rashes and was later diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis. She was initially treated at the Nightingale Diagnostic Centre, Kolkata, and when her condition did not improve, she was admitted to AMRI. Several lapses on the part of the doctors involved – failure to prescribe intravenous fluid and nutritional support, failure to maintain acceptable standards of hygiene, inconsistent monitoring of her condition, etc. – caused her condition to deteriorate rapidly and she died on 28 May 1998.

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Vivek Vashi is the mainstay of the litigation team at Bharucha & Partners, where Shreya Gupta is an associate.


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