The highest consumers’ court of India (NCDRC) in Delhi has passed an order that the “final hearing” for the Anuradha Saha wrongful death case would be listed as the first item on Monday, July 11, 2011 (see NCDRC Order below). Anuradha Saha, wife of PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha, died from a simple drug allergy due to gross medical negligence by several top Kolkata doctors during a social visit to her home town in 1998. After more than a decade of a seemingly impossible legal battle, the Supreme Court of India held four senior doctors (Sukumar Mukherjee, Baidyanath Halder, Abani Roychowdhury and Balaram Prasad) and Advanced Medicare Research Institute (AMRI), a top private hospital in Kolkata, guilty for causing Anuradha’s death in a momentous judgment on August 7, 2009. The Apex Court also remanded the case back to the NCDRC (which previously dismissed the case) only for determination of the quantum of compensation which now stands almost Rs. 150 crore (including interests), by far the highest in Indian medico-legal history. In addition, the Apex Court imposed additional penalty of Rs. 5 lakh against the AMRI hospital and Rs. 1 lakh against Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee for their most heinous role in Anuradha’s death. A penalty of Rs. 6 lakh is also by far the highest ever imposed against doctors/hospital by any court of law in India. After another almost two years of delay during which Dr. Saha had to move the Supreme Court on at least three occasions and eventually US-based economist, Prof. John Burke, Jr., testified through the Internet for the first time in an Indian court, all pleadings were eventually completed last month paving the way for the final argument and verdict in this historic case.
While most cases of medical negligence are dismissed by the courts in India due to lack of supporting evidence from other Indian doctors who are reluctant to testify against their delinquent colleagues, the rare cases where the court eventually finds the doctor guilty for causing death of a patient, the compensation against the wealthy doctors/hospitals rarely exceeds a few lakh rupees making ordinary Indian citizens’ lives worth very little. Indians are eagerly waiting for the final quantum of punishment against the Kolkata doctors and AMRI hospital that may go a long way toward uplifting the devalued human lives in India and in preventing the pervasive medical negligence in hospitals across India.