SC Issues Notice to MCI and Health Secretaries Across India on Lack of ICU Guidelines: Effects of SLP Filed by a Victim of Medical Negligence Backed by PBT

In a historic judgment delivered by Supreme Court Justices Mr. Dipak Mishra and Mr. U.U. Lalit that may have far-reaching effect on negligent treatment of critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICUs) across India, Apex Court has directed to implead the Medical Council of India (MCI) as well as the central and state governments and issued notice to the MCI, central government and Health Secretaries of all state governments seeking to explore the guidelines, if any, for proper treatment in the ICUs (see TOI news below).

This case involves horrific death of a young woman, Sunanda Mondal, following a caesarean delivery at the Wellness Nursing Home in Kalyani, 40 km from Kolkata, under the care of Dr. Rita Sinha. The patient was left virtually unattended in ICU for three days before shifting her to a super-speciality hospital in Kolkata in a moribund condition where she eventually died from alleged acute liver failure. The devastated middle-class family came to PBT seeking help in the quest for justice. Guided by the PBT, they lodged a case before the National Consumer Court (NCDRC) seeking a compensation of about Rs. 2 crore. PBT founding-president, Dr. Kunal Saha, personally appeared before the NCDRC during his last trip to India in December, 2015 to argue on behalf of the Mondal family. Although NCDRC summoned the accused doctor but refused to grant any time to Dr. Saha to argue the case further since he was not available during next hearing in April, 2016. It is well-known that since its inception of PBT in 2001, Dr. Saha and his organization have been helping countless victims of medical negligence in their search for justice in the most unselfish fashion without ever charging any fee for their service. In fact, Dr. Saha routinely spends lakhs of rupees from his own pocket to travel to India and argue legal cases on behalf of hapless victims of medical negligence.

Unfortunately, NCDRC dismissed Mondal’s case in May, 2016 with a cryptic order without looking into the merit of the case that the patient was left virtually untreated in the ICU following the caesarean delivery. The NCDRC also made unfortunate aspersations about the intent of Dr. Saha to help the Mondal family. Mondal’s family lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court challenging the NCDRC’s judgment and the Apex Court passed this historic order issuing notice not only to the accused doctor but also to the MCI, central and state governments to probe the status of general treatment in ICUs across India. It is a common knowledge that there is no guidelines or scientific basic protocol for treatment in ICUs by doctors in India. Many ill-equipped nursing homes and hospitals take a ride on the vulnerable and critically ill patients by treating them by careless doctors without any repercussions causing untimely death of countless patients. We hope that specific attention on this issue by the Supreme Court would bring much needed changes in our medical system to save lives of the innocent patients across the country.

TOI (Aug 19, 2016)