Within days after BMJ, top international medical journal, published a thought-provoking debate-article on the role of large compensation against medical negligence in India, most doctors’ groups and individual doctors in India have erupted in severe criticism of the Apex Court’s judgment in Anuradha Saha death case. BMJ has published one such sharp reaction from one Dr. Neeraj Nagpal, who is also the Convenor of “Medicos Legal Action Group” and ex-IMA president in Chandigarh, as well as the response (Author’s Reply) from PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha rebutting Dr. Nagpal’s criticism of court’s award against medical negligence. These responses can be viewed at the BMJ website at WWW.THEBMJ.COM and are also posted below.
British Medical Journal (BMJ), a top international medical journal, published a highly provocative “head to head” debate article in the wake of the recent large compensation granted by Supreme Court of India in Anuradha Saha wrongful death case with an interesting question: “Are large compensation payouts for negligence good for medicine in India?” (see the article below). PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, has provided logical arguments as to why under the present pitiful condition of the healthcare delivery system, direct intervention by the court of law through large compensation in medical negligence cases may be the only way to reduce incidence of malpractice and healthcare corruption in India. On the other side, Dr. Devi Shetty, a cardiac surgeon and treasurer of Association of Healthcare Providers of India (APHI), criticized the large compensation awarded by the Apex Court in Anuradha death case as he has painted a doomsday scenario if a limit or “cap” on the amount of compensation is not set in medical negligence cases for the future. In fact, Dr. Shetty has suggested that courts of law should not even judge negligence cases against doctors. Instead, Dr. Shetty has proposed that Ministry of Health should convene a medical “Committee” to decide malpractice cases against doctors.
We would like to inform Dr. Shetty and his medical groups who are defending negligent doctors/hospitals that a similar “Committee” organized by central health ministry already exists in India for decades which is known as Medical Council of India (MCI). Unfortunately, it is a common knowledge today that MCI is nothing but a “den of corruption” that only works to shield negligent doctors and that is looting crores of rupees through bribery from private medical colleges by sacrificing the standard of medical education in India. But perhaps most surprisingly, in order to defend negligent medicos, Dr. Shetty has attempted to promote a grossly misleading and/or erroneous notion that a “cap” or limit on compensation also exists in “medical negligence” cases in USA. As PBT president has explained in his article, there is no “cap” or limit on compensation for direct loss of income (“pecuniary damages”) for death of a patient anywhere in USA. This was also presented by PBT president before the Hon’ble Supreme Court where he appeared “in person” to argue his wife’s (Anuradha Saha) death case and Apex Court has quoted these large compensations routinely awarded in USA in the historic judgment delivered last October. We wonder whether Dr. Shetty and other IMA leaders are spreading these baseless rumors on “cap” in USA deliberately or are they simply ignorant about facts?
Under PBT’s relentless pressure to bring transparency in handling of cases against delinquent doctors, WBMC has eventually posted a list of the status of pending complaints against doctors on their website at WWW.WBMC.IN. The list bears more glaring testimony of the pitiful status inside the medical council in dealing with allegations against doctors. According to the list posted under the heading, “Penal cases under consideration as on 31st May, 2014”, a total of 376 cases are still pending before the Penal & Ethical (PE) Committee for final decision. Following are some of the most glaringly aspects emerging from this list:
1) 12-year old complaints still languishing for final decision: Many cases against doctors that are 10-12 years old are still pending for final verdict, sometime even after issuance of charge-sheet. For example, a case against Dr. Sajal Sarkar (case no. 62-C/2002, Item no. 1) is still waiting for “hearing by the Council” even though Dr. Sarkar was charge-sheeted in this matter suggesting prima facie negligence. Other cases are also pending since 2003, 2004 etc. The Section 8.4 of MCI “Code of Ethics Regulations” has mandated that complaints against doctors must be decided “within a time-limit of 6 months”.
2) Charge-sheet not delivered for months: A case of 2010 where “charge-sheet to be issued” against the accused doctor has been delayed for months even to issue the charge-sheer – obviously enabling the charged doctor to roan scot-free (Serial no. 68)
3) Complaints are selectively chosen as target: While older cases (e.g. filed in 2013) are shown as “Yet to be marked to PE Committee”, cases filed later in 2014 have been “Under consideration of PE Committee” clearly suggesting that the WBMC is targeting some doctors, perhaps due to their political affiliation.
4) Complaints against doctors are not increasing: the list also establishes that it is a myth, as frequently claimed by the IMA leaders, that more people are filing complaints against doctors. As shown in the list, it appears that while only about 46 complaints have been pending in 2014, the number of pending complaints in 2013 was about 157, 154 in 2012, 156 in 2011 and so on. Therefore, there is no reason to imagine that people have become more vindictive and filing more complaints against doctors.
One important aspect of this list that has emerged is the names of all doctors in West Bengal who have been charged with “medical negligence”. The complete list as it is shown at WBMC website is attached below.
In an unprecedented move in Indian medicine, MCI, highest medical regulatory authority in India, has ordered to suspend registration of three doctors of a prominent Kolkata nursing home for a period of 6 months for “not appearing” before the MCI Ethics Committee to answer charges of medical negligence (see below MCI Order). For the first time, MCI has invoked the provision of Section 8.5 of MCI “Code of Ethics & Regulations” which allows to summarily suspend the license of an accused doctor during pendency of hearing ofthe complaint before the medical council.
The three doctors (Dr. P.K. Pujari, an orthopedic surgeon and two physicians, Dr. Ranjan Bhattacherjee and Dr. Asis Kumar Patra of Paramount Nursing Home in Kolkata) were involved in an alleged case of “medical negligence” which caused death of sister of Mr. Syamal Bose in Kolkata. After Mr. Bose came to PBT seeking support for justice for the wrongful death of his sister, we provided him with the guidance to approach the state medical council seeking cancellation of medical registration of the accused doctors. But West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) dismissed Mr. Bose’s complaint in 2013 through a botched investigation with a view that there was no medical negligence by any doctors following which Mr. Bose filed an appeal (under Section 8.8 of “Code of Ethics & Regulations”) with the MCI. The historic MCI Order summarily suspending the three doctors’ medical registrations for non-appearance before the Ethics Committee is the result of PBT’s relentless pressure on the medical regulatory authorities for bringing justice to all victims of “medical negligence” which should send a strong signal to all negligent doctors.
While MCI has decided to suspend the license of the three Kolkata doctors for a period of 6 months, this direction has to be implemented by the WBMC where these doctors are registered to practice medicine. In fact, the MCI Order was directed to the WBMC Registrar for taking appropriate action to suspend the medical registration of the three Kolkata doctors. Like most other state medical councils, WBMC has also worked primarily to shield the negligent doctors with an oblique interest but they must act now to cancel medical registration of the three doctors to send the right message to the ordinary people. PBT has already written to the WBMC to act in this matter without any further delay and we will bring them to the court if they remain silent.
In a historic verdict that may have far-reaching implications on all future cases including cases of “medical negligence”, Division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Asim Banerjee of Calcutta High Court dismissed an appeal filed by West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) today which prevented “live” internet videoconferencing from USA to allow PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, to appear “in person” for conducting cases. The division bench said that they were puzzled as to why the state medical council opted to filed an appeal challenging a single-judge’s decision to permit Dr. Saha to participate to argue cases from his permanent place of residence in USA, especially when the cost for the videoconferencing was paid by Dr. Saha himself. The case before learned single Judge, Justice Aniruddha Bose, involved cancellation of medical license of Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, a senior Kolkata doctor who was held guilty for causing death of Dr. Saha’s wife, Anuradha Saha, by the Supreme Court in 2009.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) also found Dr Mukherjee guilty for medical negligence and directed to suspend his medical registration in 2011. But Dr. Mukherjee moved a writ petition challenging the MCI order and managed to obtain a stay from Calcutta HC. Dr. Saha also filed a separate writ petition seeking enhancement of Dr. Mukherjee period of suspension. The issue of “live” videoconferencing from USA came up in the course of these two writ petitions before Justice Bose who allowed Dr. Saha to use the technology of videoconferencing to participate in the court proceedings from USA. However, WBMC filed an appeal challenging the single-judge order granting videoconferencing and obtained a stay forcing Dr. Saha to take frequent trips from USA to fight these cases. The final judgment passed by Chief Justice and Justice Mr. Banerjee today is likely to pave the way for speedy trial not only for Dr. Saha but also for countless other justice-seekers from distant places to find equitable justice. Incidentally, the final judgment in the two writ petitions involving cancellation of medical registration of Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee will be delivered tomorrow, August 8, 2014.
PBT hosted a historic public seminar at Rotary Sadan in Kolkata on Sunday in which at least 12 medical doctors also joined to raise their voice against medical corruption. Subhra Verma, daughter of one of the most respected ex-CJI, Justice J.S. Verma, also described how her father became a victim of medical negligence by top Delhi doctors and how even after his death, Delhi Medical Council (DMC) deliberately shielded the errant doctors. Dr. Balbir Tomar, member of the new MCI, lashed out to the rampant corruption inside MCI which is still controlled by the disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai and his cronies. Mr. M.N. Krishnamani, Sr. Advocate and several times Supreme Court Bar president discussed how new provisions of law, as delivered by the Apex Court in Anuradha Saha death case, may play a major role in bringing justice to the victims of medical negligence. PBT president and HIV/AIDS specialist, Dr. Kunal Saha called upon the “good’ doctors to step forward and help to cleanse the deep-rooted rot in the healthcare delivery system. Many victims including doctors attended the program, some coming from far away places like Delhi, Bhopal and Bokharo. The program was widely reported by the local and national media (see below).
PBT will host an open public discussion forum on “Law and Medical Corruption” at Rotary Sadan (next to Nehru Children’s Museum) in Kolkata at 3 pm on Sunday (August 3). This historic seminar will focus on various aspects of law against healthcare corruption and medical negligence. A highly respected ex-chief justice of India (CJI), Justice J.S. Verma, who headed the Verma Commission in Delhi rape case last year, recently died from alleged medical negligence. Justice Verma’s family will be present to tell their horrific experience about death of the ex-CJI. Last year’s Supreme Court Bar President and Sr. Advocate, Mr. M.N. Krishnamani, who has played a key role in numerous PILs to improve the healthcare system, will appear as the chief guest for this program. Doctor-members of the present Medical Council of India (MCI) will also be present to describe the corruption that has ravaged the present healthcare and medical education system in India. PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, will also be present to tell about our future course of action to cleanse the medical system. All conscientious citizens, doctors and victims of medical negligence are urged to attend this historic seminar. Admission is free for all. (see below the Advertisements ran in Kolkata newspapers of August 2 including TOI, Bartaman and Sanmarg)
PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, will host a press conference on Friday (August 1, 2014) at 1:30 pm at Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) building located at 5 Windsor Place in New Delhi. PBT has lodged criminal complaints against 12 diagnostic centers across Delhi for corrupt practices of “commission”. Also, CBI has initiated an investigation against sitting MCI member, Dr. Ajay Kumar, which will be discussed at this press meeting. Further, a memorandum seeking speedy justice for cases involving “medical negligence” was submitted by Dr. Saha with the NCDRC president, Hon’ble Justice Mr. D.K. Jain. These issues will also be discussed at the press conference on Friday.
One of the top International medical journals published from UK, “British Medical Journal” (BMJ) has cited in their latest issue that BJP leader and newly appointed central health minister, Dr. Harsh Bardhan, has admitted that the present Medical Council of India (MCI) is “corrupt” (see BMJ report below). As PBT has frequently reported, MCI has been plagued with deep-rooted corruption for a very long time. Disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai was caught red-handed by CBI while taking bribe from a private medical college in 2010 following which the entire MCI was dissolved by then UPA government but only under heavy public pressure. Until Desai was arrested, then health minister, Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad, had maintained a cozy relationship with Desai and all his cronies who were in control of the MCI. Unfortunately, MCI was reconstituted in December, 2013 but many of the same Desai cronies who were part of the council when it was dissolved in 2010 returned to MCI using the flawed council election/nomination system. The functioning of the newly formed MCI over the past seven months has been as deplorable as it was before. PBT has already lodged several complaints with the health ministry seeking disciplinary action against many of the sitting MCI members. With the new health minister in power candidly admitting corruption inside MCI, we all hope that he will take imminent action to the specific issues raised by PBT to cleanse the healthcare delivery system.
Gujarat High Court (HC) division bench of Justices Mr. Jayant Patel and Mr. Z.K. Saiyed disposed of the public interest litigation (PIL) filed against the inaction on part of Gujarat University (GU) after PBT lodged a complaint against disgraced ex-MCI chief, Dr. Ketan Desai for his unlawful entry in the university senate with a direction that PBT may approach the Gujarat Govt. with a new application seeking to remove Dr. Desai from the GU senate under Section 58 of Gujarat Univ. Act. Soon after the arrest of Dr. Desai by CBI for taking bribe from a private medical college in 2010, Desai’s medical registration was suspended indefinitely following a complaint lodged by PBT. But using sinister influence, Desai managed to get himself elected “unopposed” to the GU senate as a medical man despite being criminally indicted with a suspended medical license. After PBT moved the Supreme Court, leave was granted to move the “authority” (GU) for removal of Desai from the university. But repeated appeals to the GU fell in deaf ears as PBT was compelled to move the Gujarat HC again to bring justice to Desai. The order passed by Gujarat HC asking PBT to move a new application with the state government, while may take more time, it may force GU to expel Desai. Ironically, by virtue of his GU senate position, Desai also managed recently to get himself elected “unopposed” to the MCI. While Desai himself has not yet joined MCI as a member, the newly formed MCI is being ruled mostly by Desai’s cronies. PBT has also written to the new health minister, Dr. Harsh Bardhan, seeking him imminent intervention to cleanse MCI and to take exemplary action against Desai and his cronies in order to restore public trust on the medical education and healthcare delivery system. PBT is the only reputed organization that has been fighting relentlessly against corrupt medical mafias including Desai and his numerous cronies.
Supreme Court special bench of Justices Mr. C.K. Prasad and Mr. V. Gopala Gowda severely criticized AMRI hospital for deducting Rs. 1.06 crore for income tax as “tax deducted at source” (TDS) from the “compensation” imposed on the hospital for the wrongful death of Anuradha Saha, wife of PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha (news below). On October 24, 2013, Apex Court delivered historic judgment in Anuradha case awarding highest-ever compensation of Rs. 11.5 crore including interest against AMRI hospital and three top Kolkata doctors including present “chief adviser” for West Bengal health department, Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee. AMRI had earlier sought extra time to pay the compensation which was rejected by the Apex Court. After AMRI failed to pay the entire compensation on time, Dr. Saha filed a “contempt” petition against AMRI hospital. When the matter was taken up by the court this week, it was found that AMRI had withheld more than Rs. 1.06 crore from the compensation on the plea of TDS. The Apex Court took serious view this action by AMRI hospital because “compensation” for wrongful death of a patient should not be considered as “income” for the victim’s family. At the direction of the court, AMRI was compelled to pay a check in the amount of Rs. 1.06 crore to Dr. Saha who was present in the courtroom. The Apex Court also directed that all other discrepancies in the amount paid by AMRI hospital must be sorted out within two weeks. The “contempt” has been listed for final hearing on 30th July, 2014.
The level of healthcare corruption in India is double to that of the rest of the world – this shocking finding was revealed in the top international medical journal, British Medical Journal (BMJ). In an editorial published in the latest issue of BMJ, it is claimed that wide-spread corruption among doctors and healthcare workers has steadily eroded public trust and respect for doctors. Lack of accountability in both public and private health sectors has been found primarily responsible for the spread of corruption in the medical system in India. The article has stressed that doctors must fight back against “kickbacks” to restore public trust. The article has highlighted“People for Better Treatment” for their relentless campaign to instill accountability in Indian healthcare system. (see the article below)
Newly elected central health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, has called the Medical Council of India (MCI) as a “source of corruption” and promised that the BJP government will act promptly to cleanse MCI, highest body empowered to regulate medical education and take action against negligent and unethical doctors, in an interview published in Indian Express today (see below). Until 2010, MCI was under direct control of disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai but after he was caught red-handed by the CBI while taking bribe in April, 2010, previous UPA government (under leadership of last health minister, Mr. Gulam Nabi Azad) was compelled to disband MCI under immense public pressure. But Desai and his medical cronies have recaptured MCI as a new MCI was formed last December with most of known Desai cronies have regained the top positions in the MCI through botched election and extraneous manipulation. PBT has already filed a lawsuit challenging the botched MCI election. PBT has also lodged several complaints against improper election/nomination of many of Desai cronies in the present MCI but unfortunately, Mr. Azad showed no interest to take any action to the specific complaints lodged by PBT against which PBT is planning to move the court soon. We welcome the call to cleanse MCI by the new health minister but only time will say whether the new warning signal to MCI is another empty political rhetoric by the new party in power or our new health minister, a physician himself, truly means business. Millions of hapless patients and ordinary people of India only hope for the latter.
British Medical Journal (BMJ), world-renowned medical journal published from UK, published a revealing experience of Dr. David Berger, an Australian doctor in Emergency medicine who volunteered to work in an Indian hospital recently, underscoring the harmful effects of the wide-spread corruption in Indian healthcare system. Dr. Berger has found evidence of bribery and commission everywhere and described healthcare corruption in India “like a cancer”. The author has painted a dismal picture and indicated that unless corruption is removed from the medical system soon, it may have more devastating effects not only for the hapless patients of India and also for the Indian doctors who aspires to be trained specialized medicine in developed countries. We publish the entire BMJ article by Dr. Berger (see below) with a prayer and hope for that the newly appointed central health minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, will notice and take concrete steps to eradicate the rampant corruption from Indian healthcare delivery system. PBT has recently submitted an urgent memorandum to Dr. Harsh Vardhan drawing his attention to the continued corruption in the newly formed Medical Council of India (MCI).
PBT’s relentless effort to bring justice for all victims of “medical negligence” received a major boost today as Mr. Sudhir Kumar Srivastava, an ardent supporter and PBT life-member, was informed by Medical Council of India (MCI) that they have directed to cancel medical registration of Dr. Vipul Shah, a general surgeon in Lucknow, for a period of 5 years for unethical behavior and negligent therapy causing untimely demise of Mr. Srivastava’s wife, Mrs. Nidhi Srivastav, who died from acute liver failure after Dr. Shah administered astronomical dosage of two hepatoxic drugs ignoring the patient’s grossly abnormal liver function test (LFT). MCI also found Dr. Shah guilty for blatant violation of minimal ethical standard that all doctors in India must observe. Ironically, the U.P. Medical Council (UPMC) had earlier acquitted Dr. Shah as they found no medical or ethical violation by the accused doctor.
Mr. Srivastava came to PBT in 2010 seeking help to find justice after his wife died from gross medical negligence when she was only 40 leaving behind three young children, two daughters (13, 11) and a son (7). With proper guidance and support from PBT, Mr. Srivastava fought tirelessly over the past 4 years and finally brought medical justice to Dr. Vipul Shah, a highly influential surgeon with thriving practice in Lucknow, as MCI suspended his license to practice medicine for a period of 5 years (see Dr. Shah’s resume and picture below which was obtained from the web). Mr. Srivastava’s legal case in the National Consumer Forum (NCDRC) seeking a compensation of Rs. 5.5 crore and a separate criminal case are still pending.
There are several distinct and highly important aspects in the MCI verdict against Dr. Shah that may have major implications in other cases involving medical malpractice. Apart from the negligent therapy, Dr. Shah was also found guilty for “unethical” behavior including:
1) Using “misleding degrees” after his name.
2) Making false claim in his letterhead that he was also “practicing in US and UK”.
3) Using false “logo of American Academy of Cerebral Palsy”.
4) Practicing in West Bengal and Delhi once every month, without intimation to the state medical council.
For these “unethical” misconduct, MCI suspended Dr. Shah’s license for a period of 2 years while an additional 3 years suspension was imposed on Dr. Shah because of his negligent treatment (see complete MCI Order below)
This is a significant victory not only for Mr. Srivastav’s family but also for PBT as it brings a new ray of hope for millions of hapless victims of “medical negligence” whose complaints against the errant doctors are still languishing in different state medical councils and MCI. The momentous verdict by MCI also underscores the presence of rampant corruption in the state medical councils in India. How the doctor-only members of U.P. Medical Council found nothing wrong with the negligent treatment or unethical behavior by Dr. Shah which was grossly wrong to the members of MCI? A similar situation also occurred with the historic case of Anuradha Saha as members of West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) gave a clean chit to all three doctors who were later found responsible for Anuradha’s death not only by MCI but also by the Apex Court. The entire WBMC doctor-members were indicted by Calcutta High Court in 2011 in an unprecedented criminal case under IPC Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”) and section 201 (“shielding offender”). It remains to be seen whether doctor-members of U.P. Medical Council face any criminal charge for conspiracy for their seemingly devious action. But the good news is that our unrelenting fight against negligent treatment and healthcare corruption has finally started to produce meaningful impact on the flawed medical regulatory system. It must also be remembered that Mr. Srivastava’s appeal against the U.P. Medical Council’s acquittal of Dr. Shah (under section 8.8 of MCI “Code of Ethics & Regulations”) was possible only because of PBT’s historic PIL in Supreme Court of India (W.P. Civil No. 317/2000) which eventually resulted introduction of sections 8.7 and 8.8 in the MCI “Code of Ethics and Regulations” in 2004.