Can a witness for the accused be a member of the jury as well' In the West Bengal Medical Council’s (WBMC) scheme of things, he sure can.
A member of the WBMC’s ethics committee, also a faculty in a state-run medical college, is in the dock for allegedly signing certificates for a private pathological laboratory which allegedly prompted another doctor to treat the wrong disease and cause the death of a 35-year-old Calcuttan.
Burdwan Medical College and Hospital faculty T.K. Ghosh was a member of the WBMC jury that heard out the case in which the pathological report signed by him was a key evidence and the accused was exonerated. But Ghosh now finds cases arraigned against him in the state health department, the Supreme Court, the Medical Council of India and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.
The case has its origins in a summer outing of seven friends to Orissa in 2001. When they returned, five were down with fever. Four were diagnosed with malignant malaria. The fifth, Bhaskar Bhattacharya, who went to Burdwan Diagnostic and Research Centre for the blood test, was found to be suffering from typhoid.
Doctors followed that line of treatment and Bhaskar died in April. His family later met School of Tropical Medicine malaria cell chief Amitava Nandi and moved the WBMC.
Nandi wondered why the lab and the doctor had concluded that Bhaskar had typhoid when “circumstantial evidence” pointed to malaria and why no antigen test was conducted.
At the WBMC hearing, Ghosh was on the jury. The doctor who had treated Bhaskar was exonerated as he had simply followed the typhoid report signed by Ghosh. But Bhaskar’s elder brother, Shekhar, and mother, Geeta, fought on and Ghosh now faces inquisition from several flanks.
WBMC president Ashok Chaudhuri admitted Ghosh was a member of the council’s ethics committee. And though he couldn’t recall whether Ghosh was on the jury that heard the specific case, he said it was “natural” for an ethics committee member to be there. The diagnostic centre proprietor Kushanava Pobi said Ghosh used to be chief pathologist at his centre and sign certificates.
“I was the lab’s chief pathologist and was on the WBMC ethics committee. But the point is that the whole committee found the case insubstantial,” claimed Ghosh.