Supreme Court refuses to halt doctor’s trial for patient’s death

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court has refused to halt the trial of a Hyderabad-based doctor who kept treating a seven-year-old leukemia-hit girl for tuberculosis for six months, eventually leading to her death.

The bench of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice Cyriac Joseph dismissed doctor B. Jagdish’s plea to quash a trial court summons to him, seeking his answers to the charge of killing the girl by medical negligence, involving wrong diagnosis of disease followed by fatal treatment.

In a verdict delivered last week but released late Tuesday, the bench turned down the doctor’s plea, saying: ‘No member of the medical profession could have treated the child for tuberculosis as it was a clear case where the diagnosis at the outset should have been one of leukemia.’

Appalled by the doctor’s wrong diagnosis and treatment, the bench said, ‘Unless a person has a special skill to treat a child, ordinarily he should not have treated her, not because he was wholly incompetent but because it required a special skill keeping in view the nature of the disease the child was suffering from.’

The main accused in the case is a self-styled child specialist, Jagdish, who runs a private medical centre named Disney’s Medi-Kid Children’s Hospital in Hyderabad.

The child, a Class 3 student, was first taken to Jagdish’s hospital June 22, 2000, following a severe bout of vomiting while she was in her school.

The doctor admitted her to his hospital for three days during which he had her blood tested twice. And despite the test results showing an abnormally low count of white blood corpuscles, the doctor declared the girl to be suffering from tuberculosis and acute anemia.

After prescribing medication for tuberculosis, the doctor discharged the girl from hospital amid recurring vomiting and high fever, prompting her parents to approach the doctor repeatedly within days after the discharge.

Undeterred by the girl’s worsening situation, the doctor kept administering her medicines for tuberculosis, assuring her parents all the while of the girl’s well being and dissuading them from going for a second opinion despite bouts of vomiting becoming more frequent.

This state of affairs continued for three months when the girl developed high fever, besides rashes all over her body Oct 1, 2000. Her face too was abnormally swollen.

It was eventually at this stage that Jagdish sought help from another doctor, who following a ‘biopsy of the girl’s bone marrow’ found her suffering from an advanced stage of leukemia along with an enlarged liver.

At the advice of the second doctor, the girl was admitted to Apollo Hospital, where she died Nov 10, 2000.

Following the girl’s death, her parents initiated civil as well as criminal court proceedings against the doctor. The civil proceedings at the state consumer court were for monetary compensation for deficiency of services by the doctor in treating the child and the criminal proceedings were for his prosecution for causing the child’s death due to medical negligence.

Acting on the parents’ complaint, the state consumer court ordered the doctor in June 2006 to pay damages worth Rs.400,000 to the victim’s parents on account of deficiency of services, while a magisterial court issued summons to the doctor in 2004 to answer charges of medical negligence.

Challenging the magisterial court’s summons to him, the doctor first went to the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which dismissed his plea. Against the high court order, he approached the apex court, but it too asked him to face the trial at the magisterial court for criminal negligence.


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