By Adv. R. S. Agrawal
AFTER due consideration of the entire evidence and discussions during the proceedings, finding no reason to interfere, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) Bench consisting of Members Justice Sudip Ahluwalia and AVM Justice Rajendra, AVSM VSM (Retd.) has affirmed on November 10, 2023, the orders passed by the State Commission, Puducherry on April 20, 2012 and dismissed the First Appeal filed by M/s Clinic Nallam, a private Nursing Home and Dr V Nallam against the said orders delivered by the State Commission in favour of the complainant –A. Helen Victoria.
According to the National Commission, the main issue revolves around medical negligence and the alleged presence of foreign objects (nut and bolt)in the body of the complainant - A. Helen Victoria, after a surgery performed by the appellants -2 and 3, respectively Dr V. Nallam and Dr Sreeramamurthy.
After the Surgery, the complainant experienced several health issues, leading to the discovery of foreign objects in her body in the year 2003. The primary question is whether the presence of these foreign objects is a result of the alleged negligence of the appellant-doctors during the surgery in the year 1991.
The case is centered on medical negligence, the duty of care expected of medical professionals towards their patients, and the liability of the appellants in the complainant’s health complications.
The appellants contested that the complaint is time-barred, as complainant was aware of the foreign objects in her body in 1997, which should have prompted earlier legal action.
Further substantial evidence linking the alleged surgery to their clinic does not exist.
They do not have medical records or evidence to establish that the surgery occurred at their facility. They also contended scope for contributory negligence as she underwent medical treatment from various doctors over the years. The evidence, including the 2003 surgery, does not establish a clear connection between their actions and the complainant’s condition.
It is the admitted position that the complainant underwent surgery of “abdominal hysterectomy” on June 24, 1991 at the M/s Clinic Nallam and post-surgery, she experienced complications, including giddiness and shivering, leading to admission to the Intensive Care Unit and she was treated for urinary tract infection.
Thereafter, the complainant’s health deteriorated and she became dependent on her family for daily activities. Over the years, she suffered from chronic headaches, stomach-aches and urinary tract infections. Various doctors were consulted, and treatments were attempted, but there was no improvement as the object was left unidentified.
Ultimately, while severely suffering, on October 3, 2003, she consulted Dr Mini Ravi and it was discovered that there was a foreign object present and needed surgical removal. She was operated upon in November, 2003 at East Coast Hospital, Pondicherry, and the surgery revealed that a “Nut and Bolt” were left inside her during the initial surgery in 1991 by the appellant-doctors. She alleged negligence by them, leading to her prolonged suffering and complications and that they offered her free operation and Rs 50,000/-. She suffered mental and physical pain with medical expenses and other expenses for over 12 years due to the carelessness and negligence of these appellant-doctors.
Regarding the appellants’ objection that the complaint is time-barred and the assertion that the complainant was aware of the foreign objects in her body in the year 1997 and she should have taken legal action earlier, it is crucial to note the circumstances. In 1997, the complainant had sought medical help from Dr Janarthanan and underwent a kidney X-ray, which revealed a “butterfly-shaped object.
However, the doctor did not provide appropriate guidance, leading to the complainant being completely uninformed about the presence of foreign objects.
Her suffering persisted until she consulted Dr Mini Ravi in the year 2003, who informed her about the presence of a foreign object, necessitating surgical removal. On being so informed she immediately underwent surgery and got it removed. Therefore, clearly the existence of the foreign body (bolt and nut) inside the body of the complainant was found and confirmed during October, 2003 and was removed on December 10, 2003. As the knowledge of the confirmation of foreign body counts for the computation of period of limitation, the complaint was filed within time, that is within two years from the date of knowledge of the confirmation of foreign body inside her body.
As regards the objection about lack of evidence, the appellant pointed that the complainant’s son who testified that he no personal knowledge of her admission to the appellants’ clinic. However, at that time he was 15 years of age and testified as per his own understanding at that age. In any case, his evidence is of limited scope in the case, as the surgery, suffering of the complainant and the removal of the foreign objects were conclusively established.
The NCDRC has referred to admission by the appellant - Dr Sreeramamurthy that he assisted Dr. Nallam to perform surgery on the complainant on June 24, 1991, which has resulted in significant suffering to her.
This makes it evident that he was present and assisted the other appellant doctor in performing the surgery. The documentary evidence produced by complainant and medical prescriptions given by him have been not disputed. After the surgery on June 24, 1991, she again went to Dr Nallam with the complaint of giddiness and shivering.
This and other facts on record establish that she went to the appellants after surgery and they provided her the follow up treatment. However she continued to suffer and was subjected to gross inconvenience and financial losses.
Through the order, now confirmed by the NCDRC, the State Commission had partly had partly allowed and partly dismissed the complaint, declaring that the appellants are jointly and severally liable to pay to the complainant (i) A sum of Rs 6 lakh towards cost of medical treatment incurred by the complainant; (ii) A sum of Rs 72,000/- towards engagement of household servant maid by the complainant for the domestic chores for 12 years; (iii) A sum of Rs 7 lakh towards unbearable pain, loss of normal life, loss of care of the children etc. because of negligence and deficiency in service on the part of the appellants; and (iv) Rs 5,000/- towards costs. The National Commission has dismissed the first appeal.