The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Costs conflict after patient suicide

She studied English in Jadavpur University, looked after her retired father, and was doing fine for herself. And then her mother died. Depression followed. Admitted to a reputed healthcare centre in south Calcutta after a gastro attack, she decided to end her life by jumping out of the eighth-floor window of the hospital’s intensive therapy unit.

But, in death, Srirupa Bose has created history of sorts. The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has awarded her father a compensation of Rs 50,000, after finding “considerable lacunae in the administration of the hospital, particularly in the intensive therapy/intensive care units”. This has prompted the hospital management to appeal to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in New Delhi.

Srirupa was put in Kothari Medical College with a gastric complaint in November 1996. She was preparing to graduate, while earning Rs 8,000 from a job with the Indian Society for Rehabilitation of Children, her father’s advocates S.K. Thakur and S.C. Bagchi told the court.

Three days after she was admitted (on November 4, 1996), Srirupa’s father was told his daughter had died after falling from an eighth-floor window. He was handed over a death certificate that mentioned “cardiac respiratory failure” following a severe injury in the head and haemorrhage.

Maintaining that Srirupa had been in the custody of the hospital management, her father’s lawyers held it responsible for the death of the young girl with a promising career.

The hospital, however, denied there was any negligence or deficiency in service on its part. Srirupa committed suicide by jumping from the eighth-floor because she was depressed after her mother’s death (which had occurred a few days ago) and not because of any negligence on the hospital’s part, Kothari’s advocate N.R. Mukerje told the court, adding that she had been responding to treatment there.

The bench, comprising State Commission president Justice S.C. Datta and members S. Majumdar and D. Karforma, heard out the arguments before admitting that it “escaped” their “comprehension how Srirupa could jump out of the window... It is for the hospital to explain how the patient could leap to death,” they said, adding: “It seems there was no one to look after her.”

The bench ruled that: “Had there been any other doctor or nurse, the incident could not have happened... The facts are eloquent enough to establish that the hospital authorities were thoroughly negligent in keeping a watch over the movement of the patient.” Kothari was directed to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation.

The hospital has now moved the apex consumer court in New Delhi and appealed against the state court’s decision.

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