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State held vicariously liable to pay the petitioner’s damages on behalf of the hospital: Madras High Court

State held vicariously liable to pay the petitioner’s damages on behalf of the hospital is upeld by the Madras High Court in the case of S.Bhanupriya v. The State and others through a  bench of Justice Anand Venkatesh

FACTS OF THE CASE

A young mother who was forced to undergo three surgeries as a result of a government hospital’s failure to promptly transfer her to a better facility and was subsequently separated from her newborn child for nine months.

In this case, the mother delivered a boy while she was a patient at the hospital run by the respondent. The doctor had to use forceps during the birth since there was a last-minute issue that required stitches. But the pus began flowing from the stitches the following day, and the petitioner had a lot of trouble urinating and pooping. The stitches were removed and replaced four days later.

However, nothing changed, the petitioner was then informed that the doctor will carry out the second procedure. The petitioner’s husband insisted on a discharge because he could see no improvement from the hospital’s perspective. Later, she was admitted to a private hospital where she underwent a three-stage surgery and spent 15 days in the vascular care centre.

As a result, the petitioner filed the current plea in an effort to obtain compensation for the financial loss incurred in paying for surgery costs, medical expenses, travel costs, and rental costs as well as for the mental anguish she had to endure due to having to care for her newborn child alone for nearly nine months.

On the other side, the responders claimed that the problem was typical of all surgical procedures. There was no deliberate delay on the part of the hospital and they were simply waiting for the infection to be under control before starting the operation. They claimed that there was zero negligence on their part as a result.

JUDGEMENT

While making its decision, the court emphasized that Article 226 forbade it from entering into substantial factual disagreements and that it could only make a determination about carelessness based solely on the materials at hand, without considering the quality of the evidence. The court also reaffirmed that the Apex Court had previously held that a medical professional cannot be held liable for negligence simply because something went wrong during a procedure or surgery, despite the doctor’s best efforts and despite the fact that the doctor exercised the usual level of care, skill, and knowledge.

In this instance, the respondent doctor’s course of action could not be deemed negligent because it was made in the petitioner’s and her unborn child’s best interests. According to professional opinion, the same thing was always a possibility in some cases of forceps delivery, hence the perineal tear that developed as a result of the surgery could also not be regarded to be the result of neglect. Therefore, the doctor did not act negligently.

The respondent hospital took a while to resolve the matter, according to the court, which was noted. Despite their claims, the discharge report makes no mention of the petitioner’s husband receiving advice from them to seek treatment in a Coimbatore hospital. If the patient’s condition could not be adequately managed in the hospital, the hospital was expected to take quick action to transfer the petitioner to the Coimbatore Medical College. In such a case, the patient’s interest takes on greater importance, and the petitioner and her husband’s consent was not required.

The hospital claimed that they were waiting for the infection to go away before doing the second surgery, but the private hospital where the petitioner was eventually treated had carried out the procedure four days after she was discharged, the court noted. All of this would effectively demonstrate that the hospital was negligent in providing the petitioner with adequate care.

Being a government hospital, the State was held vicariously liable to pay the petitioner’s damages on behalf of the hospital. As a result, the court ordered the state to compensate the petitioner and the petitioner was awarded a lump sum settlement of Rs. 5 lakhs by the Madras High Court.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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