Kolkata Healthcare: Doctors, hospital pay up in NRI death case

(IBNS) Almost five months after the National Consumer Forum (NCDRC) awarded the highest compensation in Indian medico-legal history for the wrongful death of an NRI doctor’s wife way back in 1998, the accused hospital and doctors of Kolkata paid up on Tuesday.

Ohio-based HIV/AIDS researcher Kunal Saha’s wife Anuradha Saha, who was a child psychologist, died during a social visit to Kolkata about 12 years ago from a rare and deadly skin condition.

“Three top Kolkata doctors and AMRI hospital (which recently had a big fire killing over 90 patients)  eventually paid their dues before NCDRC today but only after they were threatened to be imprisoned under Section 27 of CPA Act, 1985,” said Saha.

After the Supreme Court found the three doctors and AMRI hospital guilty for Anuradha’s death in 2009 and remitted the case back to NCDRC only for determination of the quantum of compensation, NCDRC awarded a total of Rs. 1.7 crore including Rs. 40.40 lakh each against Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee (medicine specialist) and AMRI Hospital while Rs. 26.93 lakh each was awarded against Dr. Baidyanath Halder (dermatologist) and Dr. Balaram Prasad (medicine specialist).

“After the three doctors and AMRI hospital refused to pay the compensation for several months, I moved NCDRC seeking their imprisonment.  While Dr. Halder and AMRI hospital paid their entire compensation, Dr. Mukherjee paid only Rs. 33 lakh and asked the court to allow him some more time to pay the rest of the compensation awarded against him,” said Saha.

“Although Dr. Prasad did not pay any money today, NCDRC granted him 2 weeks time to pay the entire compensation failing which he may still be sent to jail,” he said.

Anuradha, then 36, had skin rashes while in Kolkata and was admitted in the AMRI hospital on May 11, 1998 under Dr Sukumar Mukherjee while she was also treated by  Dr Baidyanath Halder, late Dr Abani Roychaudhury and Dr Balaram Prasad.
Of these doctors, Dr Abani Roychaudhury  passed away some years ago.
Anuradha actually had Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN), a rare dermatological disease
which is identified as a severe allergic reaction, and after she was treated wrongly  in  Kolkata was taken to Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital by her husband Kunal Saha where she died the same month.
What followed is a protracted legal war waged by Kunal Saha against the doctors and the hospital.

While this was the highest-ever compensation case in Indian medico-legal history, Saha has already filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the NCDRC’s judgment because the compensation awarded by NCDRC he claimed is “only a tiny fraction of my total claim which now stands almost Rs. 200 crore (including interest).”

“The Apex Court has already admitted my appeal for enhancement of compensation and fixed it for final disposal on July 10, 2012,” he said.

Saha, who shuttled between USA and India to fight his case spending in crores, alleged that the medical community in West Bengal, especially the West Bengal Medical Council, brazenly tried to protect the guilty doctors.

In the course of his fight against the doctors and AMRI, Saha set up People for Better Treatment (PBT), India’s largest patients’ body against medical negligence and medical malaise.

Saha is also fighting the corruption in health sector and in the medical community across India.

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