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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
 
  May 2016
 
  April 2016
 
 
 
 
CASE STUDY - by Anoop K. Kaushal

EMERGENCY CARE AND DISCHARGE

All India Institute of Medical Sciences v. Swarn Bedi

First Appeal No. 139 of 2008, pronounced on 9 th April, 2013 by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.

Facts: On 30-5-1996 when the Respondent and her daughter Ms. Ginni Bedi were sleeping at night, they were attacked by 6 to 7 intruders with axes, blunt rods etc. and were injured with bleeding from the head. Early next morning at 5.45 a.m. their neighbours came to know about the incident and with their help and that of the Police they were taken to Appellant-Medical Institute for treatment, where they were admitted in the casualty ward. Appellant-Medical Institute carried out various medical tests and also got the Patients examined in the concerned departments. Respondent's daughter was diagnosed with blood clots in the head due to the head injury, for which she was operated and remained admitted in the Appellant-Medical Institute. However, Appellant-Medical Institute discharged the Respondent without keeping her under observation and only casually attending to her despite her repeated complaints of headache, nausea etc. apparently because a bed was not available in that Medical Institute. On her way from Appellant-Medical Institute, Respondent became unconscious and was shifted to Aashlok Hospital, where she was advised head surgery and underwent the same, for which she had to incur a total expenditure of ` 95,490. Being aggrieved by the deficiency in service and medical negligence on the part of Appellant-Medical Institute, who, despite her serious medical complaints and condition, discharged her, Respondent filed a complaint before the State Commission and requested that the Appellant-Medical Institute be directed to reimburse her medical expenses of ` 95,490, ` 50,000 for medicines and other post-operative treatment at Aashlok Hospital and compensation of ` 4,00,000 for mental agony and harassment.

Defence Version: Appellant-Medical Institute on being served filed a written rejoinder denying that there was any medical negligence or deficiency in service on their part. It was inter alia stated that in the first instance the case was not maintainable against it as Appellant-Medical Institute does not levy any charges in regard to service and treatment provided to the patients and in this case also no payment was taken from the Respondent and, therefore, she was not a 'consumer' as defined under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Further, it is not a fact that she was discharged even though she had serious medical complaints merely because there was no bed available. As soon as she was brought to the Appellant-Medical Institute she was admitted there and was immediately examined by Doctors in the emergency department and other departments. On examination, it was found that there was a laceration wound in the skull of the Respondent but there was no history of loss of consciousness or vomiting. She was treated with conservative method and procedure and was given necessary injections and laceration wound was sutured. Respondent was further examined in the ENT and Dental Departments, where she was treated for a laceration in the right ear and antibiotics were administered. The Dental Surgeon also examined her. The overall finding was that there was no loss of consciousness, vomiting and bleeding and no evidence of fracture of maxilla and zygoma. The Respondent was, therefore, discharged and asked to attend OPD. On the other hand, her daughter, who had more serious injuries, was admitted in the Appellant-Medical Institute and was discharged after she was medically fit for the same. Under these circumstances, there was no question of discharging the Respondent without duly attending to her and because no bed was available. In case the Respondent felt uneasiness after being discharged, she could have always approached the Appellant-Medical Institute and the fact that she went to Aashlok Hospital was her decision for which Appellant-Medical Institute cannot be held liable to pay for the medical expenses incurred by her in that hospital.

Order of the State Commission: There was no medical negligence in the treatment of the Respondent and proper emergency treatment had been provided to her. However, there was some administrative deficiency in discharging the Respondent apparently due to non-availability of the bed and for this limited deficiency, the State Commission held that a token compensation of ` 25,000 would meet the ends of justice.

Held: It is not in dispute that the Respondent and her daughter on reaching the Appellant-Medical Institute were admitted to the Emergency Department and were seen by Doctors on duty in that and other Departments. On the basis of the diagnosis made, it is an admitted fact that Respondent's daughter who required surgery was admitted for the same. So far as the Respondent is concerned, it is not disputed that the injuries which she suffered were attended to and after the wounds were sutured and necessary injections and antibiotics were given, she was discharged. No evidence has been produced by the Respondent to support her allegation that she was discharged because of non-availability of the bed even though she was medically unfit to be discharged. The State Commission relying purely on the statement of the Respondent had also reached the conclusion that the Respondent was discharged because of the non-availability of the bed while at the same time stating that there was no deficiency or medical negligence in her medical treatment. We are unable to accept the finding of the State Commission that Respondent was discharged because of non-availability of the bed since it is purely conjectural in the absence of any evidence to support the same and therefore, set aside the order of the State Commission concluding that there was limited administrative deficiency on the part of the Appellant-Medical Institute and allow the present First Appeal. No costs.

 
 
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