In a major case of medical negligence with a claim of Rs. 12 crore for wrongful death of a doctor’s husband against Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in Kolkata, PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha personally appeared on behalf of the victim before the circuit bench of National Consumer Forum (NCDRC) on Tuesday (June 20) and argued against Apollo’s claim that the case should be dismissed summarily because the compensation sought was too excessive. After hearing both parties, a bench of Justices Mr. Ajit Bhariahoke and Mrs. Rekha Gupta rejected hospital’s petition and said that the final quantum of compensation will be decided only after the trial based on evidences.
The advocates for Apollo Hospital also challenged participation of Dr. Saha to represent the complainant/victim on the plea that the complainant already has an advocate and that Dr. Saha is not a licensed attorney. Dr. Saha admitted that he is a medical doctor and not a licensed attorney and that he and his organization’s (PBT) sole purpose is to help the hapless victims of medical negligence find justice. Dr. Saha also submitted that he has appeared and argued many other victims of medical negligence before the district, state and national consumer courts as well as in the Supreme Court of India but he or PBT has been helping victims all over India without ever taking a rupee from anybody. Dr. Saha further submitted that in fact he has been spending lakhs of rupees of his own money in order to help these victims that include expenses for his travel (from his country of residence in USA), hotel and food etc. This case involves death of a retired engineer, Mr. Asok Das, husband of Dr. Kalyani Das Sarkar, who died at the Apollo Hospital following a simple investigation to test his heart (cardio angiogram) as a result of a botched up procedure. The case will be heard on merit next on 13th November, 2017. Dr. Saha has come to India earlier this month only to help several victims of alleged medical negligence in their court cases pending before the consumer courts in different states (see news below).
Statesman (June 21, 2017)
Bartaman (June 21, 2017)
PBT held an open public seminar on Rogi Divas (“Patients’ Day”) this week where an urgent memorandum was sent to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) president urging him to form a fast-track court for quick disposal of cases involving alleged medical negligence by doctors and hospitals (see news reports below). While acknowledging that the consumer courts have brought a ray of hope for the hapless victims of medical negligence in India under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), PBT has stressed that inordinate delays extending to several years and decades in disposal of complaints against the errant doctors/hospitals have brought a great deal of frustration for the victims of medical negligence. PBT has requested the NCDRC president to establish separate fast-track courts for handling only cases involving medical negligence for expedited disposal rather than, as is the norm today, all consumer complaints, much of which involves ordinary commercial disputes, are tagged together with cases of medical malpractice that truly involves vital question of life and death for the ordinary people.
Zee News (May 28, 2017)
Pioneer (June 1, 2017)Daily News World (May 28, 2017)
PBT calls all conscientious citizens and victims of “medical negligence” across India to observe Rogi Divas (Patients’ Day) on Sunday (May 28). Patients’ Day is to spread better awareness about medical and legal rights of all patients and to establish a timely justice delivery system for all victims of alleged “medical negligence”. While MCI Code of Medical Ethics and Regulations and Consumer Protection Act (CPA) have provided legal as well as medical regulatory power for protection of the defenseless patients from careless or negligent treatment by doctors and hospitals, it is a common knowledge today that medical councils, that are in charge of taking disciplinary action against errant doctors, primarily function to shield their delinquent medical colleagues without any concern for the hapless patients. Even the Consumer Courts in India have failed to deliver timely justice as cases against the wealthy and influential doctors/hospitals languish in the court for years and decades.
To celebrate Rogi Divas, PBT will hold an open public seminar at 4 pm on Sunday (May 28) at Calcutta Press Club (near Maidan, Kolkata) where all conscientious citizens and victims of “medical negligence” are invited to attend and raise their voices demanding medical justice for all. You can contact 9831983670 or 9143650171 for more information about this public seminar.
All members of the Medical Council of India (MCI) unanimously passed a motion during their last General Body (GB) meeting (just posted on MCI website) specifically to congratulate the disgraced Dr. Ketan Desai who is still free on bail waiting for his criminal trial on charges bribery and corruption after he was arrested by the CBI in 2010. As can be seen on page 7 of the minutes of this GB meeting:
“Dr.Ved Prakash Mishra moved an informal congratulatory resolution on the achievement of the highest position of World Medical Association by Former President of Medical Council of India, Dr.Ketan Desai and the whole house seconded and extended their committed heartfelt congratulations to Dr.Desai. A congratulatory letter be sent to Dr.Desai on behalf of MCI in this regard.”
While the entire country and even the international medical community are well aware about the corrupt nature of Dr. Ketan Desai, as recently held in an editorial published in the prestigious international “British Medical Journal” (BMJ), there can be little doubt that the doctor-leaders who are running the healthcare and medical education system in MCI are nothing but cronies of this disgraced ex-MCI chief, Dr. Ketan Desai. Unfortunately, the ultimate price of this wide-spread medical corruption will be paid by the defenseless patients across India.
Leaders of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have frequently claimed that lack of adequate infrastructure and too much workload in Indian hospitals and nursing homes are responsible for doctors committing more mistakes and medical malpractice. Top international medical journal, British Medical Journal (BMJ), has categorically undermined any such notions as BMJ in a report published this week has reported that according to the medico-legal experts, law would not accept any view that a lack of adequate resources or excessive workload in hospitals as a defense in cases involving gross medical negligence (“Workload pressure no defense against clinical negligence, barrister warns” by Abi Rimmer, BMJ 2017: 357, j2103). The BMJ report has advised that the argument that UK government’s healthcare system (NHS) has not allocated enough financial resources for running government hospitals cannot provide any shield for doctors who are facing charges of criminal negligence causing death of a patient. While a number of doctors in UK have been jailed after conviction for criminal negligence (“manslaughter”) causing death of a patient through reckless treatment, in history of Indian medicine, not a single bona fide allopathic physician has ever been convicted for criminal negligence under Section 304A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) that carries a maximum jail sentence of 2 years, fine or both. Even in the most well-known medical negligence case for death of Anuradha Saha, although three senior doctors (Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, Dr. Baidyanath Halder and Dr. Abani Roychowdhury) were convicted under IPC 304A and sentenced for 3 months jail by the trial court, their conviction was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court on the ground of “cumulative negligence” (suggesting that some other junior doctors, who were not charged criminally, also contributed, albeit to a minimal level, to Anuradha’s eventual death).
In an unprecedented move exposing the deep-rooted corruption inside the Medical Council of India (MCI) and Indian Medical Association (IMA) that seemingly worked together to put Dr. Ketan Desai, perhaps the most notorious and corrupt doctor in Indian medical history, to the coveted post of president of World Medical Association (WMA), an unprecedented editorial published last week in the world-renowned “British Medical Journal” (BMJ) has called to remove Dr. Desai from WMA and asked for a complete overhaul of the world medical body (see BMJ editorial attached). PBT and other well-minded medical groups across the globe have long been fighting the reinstatement of disgraced Dr. Desai to the post of WMA president ever since a group of senior IMA leaders presented a blatantly false claim before the WMA that all charges against Dr. Desai have been dropped by the Indian government. But despite strong objection raised immediately by PBT that this was an absolutely false claim by IMA because the main CBI “trap” case against Dr. Desai for alleged bribery and corruption is waiting at the Patiala House Court in Delhi for criminal trial to begin. But WMA kept blind eyes to the objections by PBT and other medical groups and made Dr. Desai as their president last year anyway underscoring that medical corruption has probably reached far beyond the shores of India. The scathing editorial published in BMJ provides further corroboration to this notion that medical leaders in MCI/IMA are hands in gloves with some devious members of the world medical body who are trying desperately to restore the grossly tarnished image of criminally-indicted Dr. Ketan Desai.
BMJ Editorial (April, 2017)
Disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, was caught red-handed by the CBI on 22nd April, 2010 for taking a huge bribe from a private medical college allegedly in exchange of granting MCI recognition to admit MBBS students. Seven years later, criminal trial against Dr. Desai is still delayed on one ground or another as Desai roams free on bail. During this long delay in the justice delivery system, Desai also managed to recapture the coveted post of World Medical Association (WMA) president (with help from his unprincipled medical cronies in MCI/IMA) by virtue of which, the biggest medical mafia in Indian medicine attends conferences and delivers lectures on medical ethics and good medical practice. This is the irony for the “good” doctors and millions of hapless patients of India.
When the criminal case against Desai came up for hearing last month before the CBI court in Patiala House in Delhi, one of the co-accused in the same corruption case, Mr. J.P. Singh (who was allegedly involved as a conduit for bribing Dr. Desai) was allowed to travel to USA/UK on a personal ground and as such, the case was adjourned again to 25th May, 2017. The long and sordid saga of Dr. Ketan Desai and deep-rooted corruption in the MCI and IMA has not only damaged credibility of the entire medical community in India, it has also caused further erosion in public trust on doctors. We hope that the CBI will work harder to bring justice to all the corrupt individuals including Dr. Desai who are responsible for the present abysmal condition of medical education and healthcare delivery system in India.
Lately, Indian Medical Association (IMA), largest doctors’ club and other doctors’ groups across India have started strong movements by crippling hospital services through “doctors’ strike” to protest against physical assaults on doctors and hospital services causing endless pain and suffering for countless innocent patients. The powerful medical lobbies have also exerted pressure on state and central governments to implement new criminal laws seeking non-bailable warrants and up to 14 years of imprisonment for any relatives/friends of the alleged victim of “medical negligence” accused of any attacks on doctor and hospital vandalism. Some states like West Bengal have already enacted such draconian laws only to protect members of the medical profession.
PBT has never condoned any form of physical violence against doctors and hospitals. We also want that government must be able to provide adequate protection against physical attacks against any citizen and members of all profession including doctors. The Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) already have several legal provisions for criminal prosecution against physical violence and destruction of property. In addition, civil laws also provide added protection against any loss due to physical destruction of life and property. What is the justification to make new laws only for protection of our healers? Under Section 304A of CrPC, when a doctor is found guilty for causing death of a patient due to gross medical negligence, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for up to 2 years – ironically, no doctor has ever been sentenced to jail for 2 years in Indian medical history.
Now IMA wants new criminal law to put a deeply aggrieved and otherwise peaceful family member of an alleged victim of medical negligence in jail for 14 years even if he makes a minimal threat after witnessing his loved one dying from reckless treatment and losing mental momentary control. Doctors in India also need to think why incidence of doctor bashing or hospital vandalism is simply unimaginable in developed countries like USA and UK. It is because people in USA/UK have trust on their medical regulatory system as medical councils in the West routinely held many doctors guilty for medical negligence and take stringent disciplinary action by canceling their medical registration. In sharp contrast, Medical Council of India (MCI) and state medical councils in India are riddled with corruption that function only shield their errant medical colleagues without caring for the lives of the defenseless patients as virtually no doctor is found guilty by the doctor-only members of the medical councils in India. A repot written by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, on this burning issue is published in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMD) (see below)
BMJ (Mar 30, 2017) doctor attacks
In a desperate attempt to suppress information about Ethics Committee investigation of complaints of medical negligence and status of investigation of complaint against disgraced Dr. Ketan Desai, Medical Council of India (MCI) moved a frivolous writ petition in Delhi High Court challenging the recent order passed by Central Information Commission (CIC) directing MCI to provide PBT all information in regard to Ethics Committee investigation of complaints against doctors and long-standing investigation of Dr. Desai whose license was suspended by the MCI in 2010. The CIC passed this order on February 2, 2017 directing MCI to provide the requested information within 3 weeks after MCI refused to provide any information after PBT filed an application under RTI Act, 2005 seeking the relevant information for public interest. Instead of coming clean in a transparent manner to disclose the information as directed by the CIC, MCI obtained an ex perte stay from Delhi High Court on the ground that Dr. Kunal Saha, PBT president, is a USA citizen and as such, has no right to obtain information under RTI Act, 2005.
Ironically, the RTI application seeking information from MCI was not filed by Dr. Saha, but by PBT vide an RIT application signed on behalf of PBT by Mr. Ranjit Sarkar, a PBT governing body member and resident of Kolkata. Dr. Saha only appeared and argued the case before CIC during the final hearing of this matter in January, 2017. Thus, MCI has willfully misguided the court to obtain this stay order in order to avoid disclosure of their continued support for the disgraced ex-MCI head, Dr. Ketan Desai and also to suppress the botched investigation of numerous complaints of “medical negligence” by MCI Ethics Committee where hardly any doctor is found guilty. In any event, in a similar case (refusals to provide information under RTI Act by West Bengal Medical Council to Dr. Kunal Saha on his citizenship status, Supreme Court categorically held in 2007 that Dr. Saha has right to obtain RTI information as an overseas citizen of India). PBT will move against this vengeful act by the highest medical regulatory body and demand exemplary punishment against MCI.
In another overtly uncaring move for the lives of the defenseless patients, thousands of doctors in government and private hospitals across Mumbai started strike and mass casual leave bringing the entire healthcare delivery system to its knees and causing endless misery and death of at least 57 patients, according to published report. This “doctors’ strike” was initiated in demand of increased security after alleged assault on a doctor by aggrieved patient-party. PBT has long held an wavering view that doctor bashing and hospital vandalism cannot be condoned under any condition, even when there is ample evidence of gross medical negligence, because one wrong can never be the cure for another wrong. But PBT also firmly believes that doctors have no legal or moral right to go on a “strike” holding the innocent patients at ransom. Moreover, “doctors’ strike” clearly violates the MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002 and it clearly goes against the fundamental principles of the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors must take before starting to care for the ailing citizens.
In response to our PIL against doctors’ strike, Supreme Court of India passed a historic judgment on 15th November, 2014 (W.P. No. 253/2012; PBT vs. MCI & Ors.) in which the Apex Court held that strike by doctors may be deemed as “negligence” and the striking doctors are liable for disciplinary action by the medical council. In view of this categorical observations made by the SC, PBT has submitted a formal complaint with the MCI and Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) requesting them to take exemplary disciplinary action against the striking doctors failing which PBT will move the appropriate court seeking contempt against the MCI and MMC. While IMA has defended the striking doctors without caring for the loss of innocent patients’ lives, Indian medical community needs to ponder why unfortunate incidence of doctor bashing by irate crowd and “doctors’ strike” are unheard of in developed countries like UK and USA. Until the common people are provided with a truly impartial and honest platform (e.g. medical council or Commission) where they feel that they have a chance of finding justice against the errant medicos, occasional attacks on doctors/hospitals by otherwise peaceful and law-abiding citizens who lose control of their minds under acute grief after witnessing their loved dying from reckless treatment are not likely to end anytime soon.
Riding on a populist message against medical negligence and unethical practice by private doctors and hospitals, Mamata Banerjee recently rushed a new healthcare Bill through the assembly (W.B. Clinical Establishments Registration, Regulation and Transparency Act, 2017) to entrap public sympathy, she disclosed today the names of members of the supremely powerful “Commission” that, as per these new provisions, will decide allegations by all aggrieved patients. Shockingly, Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, convicted by the Supreme Court for his unethical behavior and gross medical negligence causing death of Anuradha Saha, has been chosen by Mamata Banerjee as a senior medical member of the “Commission”. In fact, in Anuradha Saha case, Apex Court has not only held Dr. Mukherjee as the most “reckless” physician, it has also severely criticized him for his unethical conduct and dubbed his conduct as “unbecoming of a doctor“. Although it is no secret that Banerjee government has been staunching backing Dr. Mukherjee to rebuild his badly tarnished public image for many years (Dr. Mukherjee was also chosen as the “chief adviser” for the Bengal health department in 2012 against which a PIL is presently pending before the Apex Court),it is truly startling to find that the state government would go this far to select the biggest “negligent” physician to investigate complaints of medical negligence. This brazen selection by Mamata Banerjee also undermines sanctity of the Supreme Court and violates Article 144 of Indian Constitution that has mandated that all authorities, civil and judicial, must always act in aid of the Supreme Court. PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha has submitted an urgent memorandum with Bengal chief minister today urging her to immediately remove Dr. Mukherjee from this Commission. Dr. Saha has also said that if Banerjee government remains silent, he will take this matter to the court for ends of justice. It is a shame that the self-proclaimed government of Ma, Mati and Manush (mother, land and humans) is truly hoodwinking the ordinary people (manush) with bogus hope for justice against medical neglgience.
The Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017 passed last week by Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal to rein in private hospitals and doctors has not only generated a great deal of public interest in West Bengal because the Bill has several strong provisions aimed at curbing medical negligence and unethical practice by doctors in private hospitals including possible charge for “culpable homicide” by an independent Commission in the event of gross medical negligence, it has also exposed the shameless stance of IMA which is solely dependent on their political affiliation but nothing to do with welfare for the patients or improving the badly tarnished doctor-patient relationship. The Bill has been sharply criticized by Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, president of national IMA in Delhi which is known to be heavily populated by doctors belonging to the BJP. In sharp contrast, IMA leaders in Kolkata, all of whom are backed by the Mamata Banerjee’s ruling Trinomool party, have nothing but high praise for the same Bill (see front-page news in The Telegraph below). The true color of IMA, the largest doctor-only club in India, is crystal clear from this sharply opposing views of the same Bill. Our doctor-leaders have no principles or moral values as, depending on the day, they would not hesitate to take position whatever serves their selfish personal and political purposes.
Telegraph (March 7, 2017)
A much hyped Bill (W.B. Clinical Establishment Registration, Regulations, Transparency Bill, 2017) was passed today in West Bengal assembly by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinomool government claiming that this new law would rein in unethical practice and medical negligence in the state. Ms. Banerjee has also made boisterous claims that this is a truly remarkable Bill that will form a “model” for the rest of the country and bring “historic” changes in practice of medicine. But is this Bill a truly new innovation by the Trinomool government and will it really bring any change in the crumbling medical system in West Bengal or this is just another gimmick manufactured by a political leader to hoodwink ordinary people? Several questions must be raised in view of this new Bill:
1) Is this Bill truly new as claimed by the CM? The answer is a categorical “NO”. Previous Left-front govt. in West Bengal made the W.B. Clinical Establishment Act (CEA), 2010 which is virtually similar to this new Bill except that the new Bill has recommended to raise the amount of compensation to be paid to the victim’s family. The problem with the previous CEA, 2010 is that the laws were never implemented by both the Left-front and Trinomool governments under influence of the powerful doctors’ lobby (IMA).
2) If Banerjee govt. is truly interested to go after the unscrupulous doctors and hospitals, why they remained virtually silent for the past 6 years as hapless patients continued to die from rampant medical negligence across West Bengal?
3) The Bill proposes to form a new regulatory “Commission” that would investigate and take action against the errant medicos. Why do we need a new regulatory “Commission” – the state already has one for more than 100 years which is known as “West Bengal Medical Council” (WBMC). The WBMC is a den of corruption under the control of doctors belonging to the Trinomool party as the record over the past 6 years would demonstrate without any doubt. Mamata Banerjee, being both CM and Health Minister has kept a blind eye to PBT’s and countless other medical victims repeated pleas for justice.
4) Perhaps most importantly, the new Bill is applicable only for private hospitals and even if patients die from reckless medical malpractice in any government hospital, the Bill will do nothing against the delinquent doctors and hospitals. Banerjee government has claimed that 70% of state population seek medical help in government hospitals because they can’t afford the high price of treatment in private hospitals. So, do the lives of the poor people have no value in the eyes of this government of “Ma, Mathi and Manush”?
In a historic judgment delivered on 2nd February, 2017, the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed the Medical Council of India (MCI) to provide all information pertaining to the case against disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, and to put up detail of the minutes of the Ethics Committee meetings on investigation of complaints or medical negligence or ethical violations by doctors in India on MCI website within a maximum period of three weeks. This case was filed by the PBT under the RTI Act, 2005 after repeated requests for information were denied by the MCI. After more than four weeks, MCI has brazenly flouted CIC’s order and refused to provide any information despite repeated reminders from the PBT. When PBT tried to contact MCI Secretary, Dr. Reena Nayaar, who is also the Appellate Authority for RTI Act in MCI, she refused to answer any question and disconnected the phone. PBT has lodged a new appeal with the CIC today bringing this deplorable act by the MCI and requesting the highest information commission in India to take exemplary punitive action against MCI and Dr. Reena Nayaar for their deliberate and contemptuous behavior.
Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, took the stage yesterday with Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, the most notorious and reckless physician in India as held by the Supreme Court of India in Anuradha Saha death case, standing next to her to declare that a new “Commission” will be formed to investigate complaints of negligent and unethical treatment by private hospitals in Kolkata. The Trinomool party supremo, Mamata Banerjee, is also the health minister of West Bengal for the past six years and complaints of malpractice and unethical activities (such as over billing, commission) as complaints against doctors and hospitals have piled up in state medical council and health department. Instead of taking action of cleansing the existing regulatory body, i.e.. medical council which is virtually run by doctors belonging to her party, Banerjee’s promise to establish a new regulatory body to help the victims of medical negligence appears to be nothing but a hog wash for the Bengal people. Ironically, a historic case against Mamata Banerjee is currently pending before the Supreme Court for final hearing on 23rd March, 2017 for alleged helping to promote Dr. Mukherjee in candid violation of Article 144 of Indian Constitution that stipulates that all courts and civil authorities must always obey the Supreme Court and act in the aid of the Apex Court.