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Doctors “Duty Bound to advise about risks involved”- Madras HC directs ahospital to pay ₹40 Lakhs to woman for medical negligence

Chennai : The Madras High Court directed a private infertility treatment hospital in Chennai and three of its doctors to pay Rs.40 lakhs to a Sri Lankan woman who was left with a perforated colon and permanent disabilities as a result of botched up surgery related to her infertility treatment. Justice G Chandrasekharan observed that “The Doctors had failed to properly advise the plaintiff about the possible complications/risks that may arise while removing fibroids/adhesions and failed in properly administering the treatment when they were performing adhesiolysis.” In this case, the petition was preferred by a Sri Lankan Tamil woman, who was 43-years-old at the time she had visited Chennai in 2013 for treatment for infertility at the GG Hospital where she was advised by the defendant doctors to undergo a ‘Laproscopic Surgery and Adhosiolysis surgery’ to remove a fibroid from her uterus.

The Court noted that on perusing the medical records, “The risk taken by the plaintiff at the age of 43 years after all her previous attempts to get childbirth failed; failure on the part of the Doctors at first defendant hospital to give proper advice, even to discourage the plaintiff to go ahead with pregnancy plans in view of her failed attempts and advance age;” had all contributed in worsening her condition. The Court further noted that the defendants-doctors had taken unnecessary risk which had resulted in leaving the woman incapable of conceiving a child and had imposed life-long physical disabilities on her and that they were duty bound to advise the petitioner on the risks involved in the treatment, and should have given them the chance to choose the most appropriate and suitable course of treatment for such patient.

The Court said that “In a case where negligence is evident, the principle of res ipsa loquitur operates and the complainant does not have to prove anything as the thing (res) proves itself. In such a case it is for the respondent to prove that he has taken care and done his duty to repel the charge of negligence.” and that here the defendant doctors had failed to advise the petitioner against the medical treatment. “These repeated surgeries had affected enormously the plaintiff’s health causing her lot of pain and untold sufferings during the period of treatment. Possibly, plaintiff could never give childbirth again; she suffered other disabilities related to repeated surgeries. Therefore, defendants are liable to compensate plaintiff for the pain and sufferings and disablement caused to her.” said the Court.

The Court observed that “In all probability the sigmoid perforation was the cause of apparent negligence on the part of the fourth defendant while performing adhesiolysis. It is not as though the defendants especially the fourth defendant did not aware of the plaintiff’s past medical and surgery history. Only after knowing that she had undergone 3 procedures earlier and there were fibroids in her uterus and adhesions, defendants proceeded with the treatment, through surgical means. If the adhesions were so severe and possibility of causing harm/injury to the other body parts, while removing adhesions, is unavoidable defendants should have avoided to proceed further with adhesiolysis and other treatments.” Therefore, the Court directed the defendants to pay the petitioner a compensation of Rs 40 lakhs with an annual interest of 12 percent from the date of plaint till the date of decree and at the rate of six percent per annum from the date of the decree to the date of realization. Accordingly, the suit was decreed in part.