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HomeLegal NewsDoctors cannot be held negligent for the consequences of Pre-Existing conditions

Doctors cannot be held negligent for the consequences of Pre-Existing conditions

Consumer court relief to Orthopaedic surgeon & hospital

Chennai: The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Chennai (North) dismissed a complaint filed by T. Saravanan against St. Isabel Hospital and an orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital on the ground that the doctor cannot be held negligent for the consequences of pre-existing conditions of the patient.

The facts of the case are that the complainant, T. Saravanan, sustained an injury on his left knee due to a vehicle accident and was admitted at the St. Isabel Hospital for treatment. The head of the Department of Orthopaedics at St. Isabel hospital conducted a surgery. Despite the surgery, the complainant continued to experience pain and sought a second opinion from another orthopaedic surgeon at MIOT Hospitals, who advised a corrective surgery. The complainant being confused sought the advice of the third orthopaedic surgeon who also advised a corrective surgery and a corrective surgery was conducted. The complainant alleges that the head of the Department of Orthopaedics at the St. Isabel hospital conducted a faulty surgery, which necessitated the corrective surgery and claimed for compensation towards first surgery, corrective surgery, and post-operative medical expenses. On the other hand the St. Isabel Hospital contended that the complainant did not comply with the discharge summary’s instruction for a review after 6 weeks while the Orthopaedic surgeon contended that the complainant suffers from post-polio residual paralysis of both legs, which affected the outcome of the surgery.

The Commission found that the surgery performed by the orthopaedic surgeon was done with reasonable skill and competence. The increase in pain and the second surgery were due to the fact that the complainant does not have normal shape or strength in his left leg due to pre-existing polio. The Commission noted that the complainant failed to prove the alleged medical negligence on the part of the opposite parties. The orthopaedic surgeon performed the surgery with reasonable skill and competence, and hence he cannot be held liable for medical negligence.  The Commission found no deficiency in service on the part of the orthopaedic surgeon after careful scrutiny of the medical records. Based on these findings, the Commission dismissed the complaint.

Legal Prescription

  • The doctor should explain the patient any pre-existing conditions of the patient that might affect the treatment/surgery and the subsequent recovery.
  • The doctor should ensure that the patient is fully informed about the nature of the surgery, the potential risks involved, and the expected post-operative outcomes.
  • The doctor should provide clear instructions for post-operative care and follow-up visits. The doctor should record in medical records of the patient the alleged absentee of the patient on follow-up visits.
  • Patient seeking second opinion should not be dissuaded, In fact they should be encourage so as to remove concerns & doubts about the line of treatment
  • The doctors should be aware that professional opinions can differ among doctors. A course of action that one doctor recommends might not be the same as another. As long as the treatment provided is in line with accepted medical standards and practices, differing professional opinions does not constitute negligence.