Negligence settlement in India sets precedent
By Adam Plowright, AFPNEW DELHI -- India's Supreme Court Thursday awarded a record payout of almost a million U.S. dollars for medical negligence to a campaigning American doctor who said the ruling set vital precedents and would help save lives.
October 25, 2013, 12:27 am TWN
Kunal Saha, an HIV/AIDS specialist of Indian origin based in Ohio, traveled to India in 1998 with his 36-year-old wife who died after contracting a rare skin disease which was treated in a leading private hospital in Kolkata.
After being awarded a far smaller payout by a consumer dispute commission in 2011, Saha appealed to the Supreme Court seeking greater compensation, leading to Thursday's judgment 15 years after her death.
“It's closure of a personal battle for justice for my wife,” Saha told AFP by phone from his home in Ohio, saying his payout would help inflate awards by lower courts and act as a deterrent to doctors and hospitals.
“The purpose was served. The medical community in India will sit up and the courts will have to think,” he added.
Saha's NGO, People for Better Treatment, campaigns for patient rights in India which has a booming medical tourism industry that sees hundreds of thousands of foreigners travel for cheap surgery.
“I understand that doctors can't stop all deaths — I'm a doctor myself — but you open up the newspaper every day and read about horrific cases, negligent cases,” he said.
“What you don't see is a doctor being punished.”
The 59.6 million rupees (US$970,000), a record compensation sum for medical negligence in India, is to be paid by AMRI Hospitals and three doctors, whose liability was fixed at one million rupees.