On 26 February 2019, hundreds had gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar demanding that a new law should be brought soon that can help victims of alleged medical negligence fighting for justice across the country.
It was an unusual sight as men, women and even children wore bandages on hands and legs, with red ink smeared at one corner, symbolising the hurt caused due to medical treatment by private hospitals.
Photos of individuals who lost their lives due to alleged medical malpractice was arranged in a row near the stage, while a troupe performed a skit informing people about their right to seek documents from the concerned hospital.
Ureters Damaged Due to Botched-Up Hysterectomy
In 2010, Shreya, a resident of Dombivali in Mumbai had gone to see a gynaecologist at a private hospital, complaining about her monthly periods.
The doctor suggested that Shreya undergo hysterectomy or surgical removal of uterus. The operation was expected to allay all fears about a possible onset of cancer.
Shreya claims that both the ureters were damaged during the operation, leading her to undergo a second surgery at another hospital. 45-year-old Shreya is forced to wear a diaper these days after the hysterectomy was botched-up allegedly by the concerned doctor.
“If the second surgery wasn’t done on time, I would have lost both my kidneys”, claims Shreya. Angered by the neglect at the hands of the concerned doctor, Shreya first approached the consumer court where the hospital admitted before the bench that they have lost the file.
Left with no other option, Shreya approached the Bombay High Court for relief where the matter is pending currently.
“Don’t Want Anyone to Suffer Like This”
In 2011, Pramod Kumar lost his 10-year-old daughter, Shefali, after a hospital allegedly prescribed wrong medicine while administering treatment for dengue.
An employee of the NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corporation), Pramod had taken her daughter to this particular hospital enlisted by the office.
As Shefali’s condition worsened, in a state of panic, Pramod decided to shift her to another hospital where the doctors confirmed that wrong medicines have deteriorated the patient’s condition.
Inside a plastic folder marked as ‘Shefali, Class V, Roll No. 3’, Pramod has kept all the documents related to his case in a chronological order.
Pramod approached the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) seeking action against the errant doctor. The DMC, however, gave a clean chit to the doctor. Even the Medical Council of India ruled in favour of the doctor.
Denied justice not once but twice, Pramod now feels that only a stringent law can ensure that errant doctors get due punishment.
“I have been fighting this battle for last eight years. I don’t want anyone to suffer like this. And, therefore, it is important to put a check on such malpractices by private hospitals.”Pramod Kumar, Victim of Medical Negligence
Hasty Consent for Invasive Procedure
Archana Singh lost her husband, Amitabh, in 2018 due to complications following a procedure of biopsy.
After Amitabh had gone for kidney transplant, infections had become the norm and after one such bout of urine infection, the doctor at a hospital in Ghaziabad had allegedly told the family that there is no other alternative other than biopsy.
Recalling that Amitabh had reservations about an invasive procedure, Archana wipes off tears from her eyes with a blue handkerchief.
Archana further alleges that their consent was taken in a hasty manner. Since the family was not given any other viable alternative, Archana and her husband decided to go ahead with the doctor’s call.
Archana’s husband was soon shifted to an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) after excessive bleeding was reported during biopsy.
While the doctors continued to perform other surgical operations, assuring the family that it was needed to save Amitabh’s life, within a matter of days, Archana knew that her worst fear had come true.
“We were keen to take him back home, when suddenly the doctor said that they would have to perform colostomy.”Archana, Victim of Medical Negligence
While colostomy is a simple surgical process whereby large intestine is made to come out of the abdominal wall for the passage of faeces, in Amitabh’s case, the entire procedure cost him dearly.
Amitabh could not survive past the second surgical operation, known as ‘colostomy closure’, which was due few months after the first surgery.
Demand for Capping the Medical Costs
Dozens of women who work as daily wage labourers had also come to participate in these protests.
Their demand was that fees charged by doctors at private hospitals should be capped.
For Shahana, who had come from old Seemapuri locality in Delhi, cost of medical treatment adds to the financial burden of the family. Since her husband earns Rs 200 per day, even a standard fee of Rs 500 is too high.
Unaffordable medical costs often pushes individuals like Shahana into a vicious cycle of loan that takes a toll on the education of their kids.
Can a New Law Fix Accountability?
A charter of patient’s rights, prepared by the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) was put up on the website of Health Ministry last year but things haven’t moved beyond seeking suggestions from experts and general public.
The charter, if adapted by the states, will empower a patient with the Right to records & reports, Right to informed consent, Right to second opinion and so on.
Jayant Singh, father of 7-year-old Adya who had died in 2017 due to dengue Shock Syndrome, feels that a new law will help in building an ecosystem that empathises with the patient’s family. Adya’s case had hit headlines after news of overcharging by Gurugram-based Fortis Hospital had come to light. The hospital had charged Rs 16 lakhs for a period of fifteen days when Adya was treated for dengue.
“We want a separate body which can ensure the interest of patients. This will bring in accountability as far as private hospitals are concerned, which in most cases, don’t care about the quality of service.”Jayant Singh
As families continue to mourn for the loss of their loved ones, these victims of medical negligence hope that a new law will instill a sense of responsibility in doctors.
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)
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