The Commission bench, headed by N P Kaushik, ordered the hospital to pay Rs 75 lakh for “doing unwanted treatment on the patients who are not easily identifiable by the Commission”. The money has to be deposited by Escorts in the consumer welfare fund within six weeks.
Additionally, Rs 20 lakh, along with an annual interest of 12 per cent since 2008, has to be paid by the hospital as compensation to a septuagenarian man, whose wife’s leg had to be amputated up to her thigh. Complainant K C Malhotra’s wife passed away during the pendency of the case.
Exercising its power under the Consumer Protection Act, the Commission, in an order last week, imposed exemplary penalty of Rs 75 lakh on Escorts, holding the hospital guilty of unfair trade practices by conducting tests and treatments on scores of other patients. The money shall be used in assisting consumers assert their rights and claim compensation under the Act. It also invoked the principle of res ipsa loquitur which fastens liability on a party based on the very nature and mere occurrence of an accident or injury.
As per the complaint, she suffered excruciating pain in spite of the treatments and remained completely handicapped despite the artificial limb, since the veins from the right leg had been removed for the bypass surgery. Malhotra accused Escorts of botching up the treatment, because of which her leg had to be amputated.
On its part, Escorts said it had followed standard protocol, adding that the patient and her family had been informed about the findings of the surgery and the unsuitability of the vessels for bypass, besides the risk of developing gangrene in the lower limb. An expert opinion from Maulana Azad Medical College and Hospital also corroborated that she was operated on, as per the standard protocol.
The Commission, however, noted that when she was first admitted to the hospital after complaining of acute pain in her left foot, a bypass surgery was conducted and she was discharged, but no other procedure was carried out for the treatment of peripheral vascular surgery or renal angioplasty, nor was she advised to report back.
Reports have also indicated, the Commission said, that after the bypass surgery, her heart had become weaker and the muscles non-functional. It noted that she was also referred to a homeopathy doctor in another building of the same hospital, but Escorts sought to conceal this. No investigation or procedure was conducted on the patient for 10 days, before an “alarm went up one fine morning that her leg had to be amputated to save her life”, it said.
“A prolonged period of non-treatment led to the spread of gangrene and consequent amputation of the leg up to the thigh. It is, therefore, also a clear case of medical negligence and explained by the principle of res ipsa loquitur,” held the Commission while imposing the penalty.