ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Anuradha Saha Case and Medical Error in India

The Supreme Court verdict awarding almost Rs 6 crore to Kunal Saha as compensation for the death of his wife Anuradha has caused the wrong kind of disquiet in the medical fraternity. Treating Anuradha's condition required a sophisticated physical infrastructure and highly skilled medical professionals, both of which are not readily available in India, whatever the hype may say. Her death was not so much out of the negligence of doctors as out of the negligence of our society to develop a truly high-quality medical care system. The medical profession, especially doctors, must take a large share of the blame for this state of affairs. They have not been vocal in pressing the government to establish such a system.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in October 2013 awarding approximately Rs 6 crore with 6% interest per annum from the date of application till the date of payment to Kunal Saha for the death of his wife, Anuradha, has sent ripples through the medical fraternity. The amount of compensation has been the main focus of debate in newspapers, and in email lists of medical practitioners, although the Supreme Court gave clear reasons for the award. This was, primarily, that the persons concerned were doctors and citizens of the US, where income levels are much higher than in India.

The fear that a precedent has been set and that such large amounts as compensation will become routine appears to be without foundation because the largest component, over Rs 5 crore, is on account of the income that Anuradha could have earned in the US. In this particular judgment, which came 15 years after Anuradha’s death, the Court ruled on the quantum of compensation to be awarded to Saha, the proportion in which the amount should be paid by the doctors and the hospital, and whether any amount should be deducted for “contributory negligence” by Saha. The Court quoted extensively from an earlier judgment (Malay Kumar Ganguly vs Dr Sukumar Mukherjee and Others; 7 August 2009) in which the question of negligence in Anuradha’s treatment and who was responsible was dealt with.

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