A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice Manoj Misra has dismissed a case of medical negligence and set aside the compensation awarded in a case revolving a Nasotracheal Intubation, wherein it was claimed that it led to a range of severe medical complications.

In that context, the Court observed that "This is a classic case of human fallibility where the doctors tried to do the best for the patient as per their expertise and emerging situations. However, the desired results could not be achieved. Looking at the line of treatment in the present matter, it cannot be said with certainty that it was a case of medical negligence."

Advocate Fanish Kumar Rai, AoR Shantanu Sagar and others appeared for the petitioners while AoRs Rajesh Kumar and Sudhanshu S. Choudhari appeared for the respondents.

In this case, Civil Appeals were filed under Section 23 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, challenging a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) decision. The NCDRC had ordered Suretech Hospital, Dr. Nirmal Jaiswal, Dr. Madhusudan Shendre, and Dr. M.A. Biviji to pay Rs. 6,11,638 in compensation to Mrs. Sunita Parvate for medical negligence. The case revolved around a forced Nasotracheal Intubation (NI) procedure conducted on Mrs. Sunita, resulting in a range of severe medical complications, including tracheal damage, sepsis, and voice loss.

Mrs. Sunita claimed that the negligence led to her suffering from Septicemia and Thrombocytopenia, but the NCDRC found insufficient evidence for these claims. However, it did conclude that the forced NI procedure, which replaced the existing Tracheostomy Tube (TT), was unjustified. The NCDRC held that this act of negligence directly resulted in tracheal damage and, consequently, awarded compensation for medical expenses incurred at Suretech Hospital.

Mrs. Sunita subsequently appealed for increased compensation and a higher interest rate, while Dr. M.A. Biviji and Suretech Hospital, along with the other doctors, contested the charges of negligence, arguing that the subsequent complications could not be conclusively attributed to the forced NI procedure.

The Apex Court observed that since the patient was treated and underwent different procedures at multiple hospitals, there was a possibility that the medical complications could have arose at any of the hospitals or places of treatment.

Further, it was held that there was no substance to establish the causal link between the ‘NI’ procedure that was undertaken at Suretech Hospital and the subsequent medical complications that arose. In that context, it was said that, "It must be pointed out that the only medical report available in this case i.e., the RML Hospital Committee Report did not attribute any negligence to Suretech Hospital, Dr. Biviji, Dr. Jaiswal or Dr. Shendre with respect to any of the charges levelled against them. If the ‘NI’ procedure had been conducted in a negligent manner or was a poor medical decision, it is likely that the RML Hospital Committee Report would have mentioned the same. However, no such observation was made either. Further, none of the doctors that treated the patient commented adversely with respect to the chosen course of treatment."

It was further observed that there was nothing to say that the procedure conducted was outdated or poor medical practice. In that vein, it was observed that, "the medical team at Suretech Hospital has been able to show that the ‘NI’ procedure was carried out on 13.05.2004 only after due consideration. The existing ‘TT’ was removed after the bronchoscopy showed normalcy in the airways & trachea of the patient. It was expected that the patient would be able to breathe normally without any support after ‘TT’ decannulation. However, a stridor was observed in the airways of the patient, after the said decannulation took place. In light of the same, an alternative course of treatment in the form of an ‘NI’ procedure was opted for as a temporary measure."

Resultantly, the appeal was dismissed, and the parties were left to bear their own costs. The impugned judgment awarding compensation on account of medical negligence was set aside.

Cause Title: M.A Biviji vs Sunita & Ors.

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