The Madras High Court held that the government should pay compensation if there is an injury in medical cases admitted by government hospitals even when it is not a case of medical negligence.
A single bench of Justice GR Swaminathan heard the petitioner whose 8-year-old daughter had died as a result of complications that arose after the administration of anaesthesia.
The petitioner’s daughter was suffering from tonsils and for treatment was admitted at the Government Hospital, Aruppukottai where she was suggested to undergo surgery. During surgery, she was administered anaesthesia due to which certain complications arose and she was shifted to Rajaji Government Hospital, Madurai wherein she slipped into a coma and eventually passed away.
The father of the deceased patient then filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for reasonable compensation of Rs. 20,00,000/- (Twenty Lakhs Rupees) for the death of his daughter.
The Court noted that medical negligence requires factual determination and observed that while the drug which was administered to the patient was not inherently dangerous, it could lead to complications in children with mitochondrial diseases. However, there was no record to indicate that the patient had such a disease that was overlooked by the doctors.
Justice GR Swaminathan further observed, “There are always instances when a drug does not accord with the body of the patient and that leads to unfortunate complications. The case on hand appears to be one such. Therefore, I do not find any ground to hold that the respondent anaesthetists have committed any act of medical negligence.”
However, even though the Court dismissed the allegation of medical negligence, it remarked that the petitioner belonged to a notified Scheduled Caste community and held, “When a patient is admitted in a government hospital for treatment and he/she suffers any injury or death which is not anticipated to occur I the normal course of events, even in the absence of medical negligence, the government is obliged to disburse ex-gratia to the affected party.”
In this context, the Court directed the government to pay Rs. 5 lacs as “ex-gratia” within a period of eight weeks from the corpus fund of the Government towards which every Government Doctor distributes a certain sum of money.