Anuradha Saha on a skiing holiday in the US in 1995
Sukumar Mukherjee is still one of the busier general physicians in town, dermatologist Baidyanath Halder is bedridden and Balram Prasad continues to be associated with the AMRI group.
For all three, the Supreme Court’s verdict on Thursday in the Anuradha Saha medical negligence case was more a relief than a blow. “This case had been extremely stressful for me all these years and today’s verdict has at least brought some relief. There are still pending cases directly and indirectly linked to this,” Mukherjee told Metro on Thursday afternoon.
The Supreme Court has asked the veteran doctor to pay Rs 10 lakh in compensation to Anuradha’s husband Kunal, the Ohio-based AIDS researcher who fought a 15-year battle in the courts to get justice for his wife.
The verdict means Mukherjee will get back the major portion of the Rs 40.4 lakh the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had asked him to pay Kunal. “I had paid the money to Saha through the court by the end of 2012. Now I am supposed to get back three-fourth that amount,” he said.
The apex court said Mukherjee, who Anuradha had gone to for treatment of a skin ailment, had “shown utmost disrespect to his profession by being so casual in treating his patient”.
Mukherjee said he examined Anuradha only twice and that his diagnosis was based on “initial symptoms”.
“When Kunal came to me with his wife, I told him that I was going out of the country on May 12 (1998). I did not take my fee since she was a fellow doctor’s wife,” recounted Mukherjee, who lives in Salt Lake.
Despite the infamy that the case has brought, Mukherjee is a busy consultant at Nightingale Hospital on Shakespeare Sarani and gets invited to medical boards at some of the city’s top hospitals.
If there is anything he is concerned about, it is the case pertaining to the cancellation of his licence by the state medical council. A case filed by Kunal at Calcutta High Court over his being chosen by Mamata Banerjee as an adviser to the health department is pending, too.
Dermatologist Halder, 82, has his health to worry about apart from the taint of medical negligence. “I don’t believe there will ever be any peace for me now after all I have gone through over the last 15 years,” said Halder, who speaks very little because of respiratory distress.
Bedridden in his Salt Lake home, he heard about the apex court’s verdict from his lawyer in Delhi. Like Mukherjee, he has been asked to pay Rs 10 lakh to Kunal. In 2011, The consumer forum had fixed Rs 26.93 lakh as his part of the compensation.
Balram Prasad, the 55-year old general physician who was then a junior doctor at AMRI Dhakuria, said he knew little about Anuradha’s condition when she was “shifted” under his care.
Prasad was a batchmate of Kunal at NRS Medical College and Hospital. “We (he and Kunal) were meeting after many years. Anuradha was shifted under my supervision since Sukumar Mukherjee was going abroad. Initially, I didn’t know about the patient being admitted under me,” he recalled.
AMRI, to which the burden of compensation (Rs 5.83 crore) has shifted, declined comment. “We are yet to go through the court order,” an official said.
JUSTICE DELIVERED AFTER 15-YEAR STRUGGLE
April 2: Kunal and Anuradha Saha (in pictures) reach Calcutta from the US for a holiday
Anuradha gets a skin rash a few days later
May 7: Sukumar Mukherjee, a general physician, sees her at Nightingale diagnostic centre. He diagnoses her condition as allergic vasculitis, an extreme reaction to a drug, infection or foreign substance and prescribes Depo-Medrol, a long-acting steroid, 80mg twice daily for three days. That is allegedly an overdose
May 11: She is admitted to AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria, under Dr Balram Prasad
Mukherjee writes her first prescription at the hospital, continuing with Depo-Medrol and leaves for the US
Dermatologist Baidyanath Halder and Abani Roy Chowdhury (general medicine) take up her treatment at AMRI but her condition deteriorates. Her skin starts to peel off
Halder diagnoses her condition as toxic epidermal necrolysis, a life-threatening skin condition usually caused by drug reaction
He puts her on quick-acting steroids
May 17: Anuradha is airlifted to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai
May 28: She dies in the Mumbai hospital
June: Kunal lodges criminal case against Mukherjee, Haldar and Roy Chowdhury at the
Alipore chief judicial magistrate’s court
Lodges complaint with the West Bengal Medical Council, accusing the three
doctors of “negligence”
Moves the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission seeking damages from the doctors and AMRI Hospitals
June: Bengal medical council rejects Kunal’s plea. He knocks on the Medical Council of
March: The Alipore court finds the three doctors guilty and sentences them to imprisonment for three months
The physicians move Calcutta High Court, which stays the Alipore court’s order till disposal of the case
May 20: High court rejects Kunal’s plea for longer jail term for the doctors and
sets aside the Alipore court order.
July: Kunal moves the Supreme Court
August 7: The apex court finds doctors Mukherjee, Haldar, Roy Chowdhury and Prasad guilty. Orders the first three doctors to pay Rs 5 lakh each to Saha and directs Prasad to pay Rs 26 lakh. AMRI Hospitals is directed to pay Rs 1 lakh
Abani Roy Chowdhury dies
Consumer court orders a compensation of Rs 1.7 crore, which comes to around
Rs 1.3 crore after deduction of Roy Chowdhury’s part and a penalty
slapped on Kunal
Kunal appeals in the Supreme Court, seeking compensation of Rs 97 crore
April 8: Hearing concludes in the case
October 24: The Supreme Court awards compensation of Rs 6.08 crore plus simple interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum since 1998. The total amount comes
to Rs 11.55 crore
Compiled by Rith Basu and Tapas Ghosh