The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (NCDRC) observed that Janamma Hospital and doctors V R Kanakavalli and Mythili were guilty of medical negligence as they did not take "due care and caution" to ensure that life saving equipment like ventilator was available in case of any complication.
The NCDRC also set aside the Tamil Nadu State Consumer Commission's order dismissing the plea of the deceased woman's husband, Chennai native M Rajavadivelu, who had sought damages from the hospital and the two doctors involved in the surgery.
"Medical negligence is established because respondents (hospital and doctors) conducted a major surgery under general anaesthesia without taking due care and caution to ensure that critical life-saving equipments like ventilator were available in case of post-operative complications,... "We are unable to uphold order of the State Commission and set aside the same. Respondents are jointly and severally directed to pay the appellant Rs three lakh," a bench presided by Justice Ashok Bhan said.
The NCDRC gave the direction on Rajavadivelu's plea challenging the order of the state commission which had said there was no evidence of medical negligence. In his appeal, Rajavadivelu had alleged that due to the medical negligence of the hospital and its doctors, his wife Vijayalakshmi Rajavadivelu had suffered brain damage resulting in her death.
The hospital and the doctors in their defence had contended that after the surgery the patient only had some breathing problems and was otherwise stable. The NCDRC, however, rejected the contention saying, "soon after the surgery post-operative complications developed and due to lack of a ventilator the patient developed a fatal complication."
Rajavadivelu, in his plea, had said that his wife had been admitted in the hospital in January 1998 for undergoing hysterectomy. After the surgery, she had developed breathing problems and the hospital informed him she would have to be shifted to another hospital for ventilator support, he had alleged.
As the process of shifting the patient took more than 10 minutes, during which she was not on ventilator support, she had suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen, Rajavadivelu had alleged, adding that no doctor from Janamma accompanied them in the ambulance.
He had also alleged that oxygen was not pumped into his wife through an ambu-bag, which is required for patients with breathing problems and when she arrived at Chennai Kaliappa Hospital she was unconscious and had to be moved to the ICU.
Vijayalakshmi had died three months later in April 1998, he had said. All these allegations were refuted by Janamma Hospital which had said it had provided the best medical care possible and since it did not have a ventilator, a decision was taken to move the patient to a hospital which had the facility.