Calcutta, Oct. 18: After a six-year battle against medical negligence, Krishna and Ramshankar Hazra were awarded Rs 10,000 as compensation for the death of their five-month-old son.
Nine days ago, a consumer court in Hooghly upheld the couple’s charges of negligence but refused to grant them the Rs 5 lakh they had sought as compensation.
Five-month-old Saubhik had died before daybreak on October 28, 1996, weeks after he was diagnosed with diarrhoea and breathing problems. He had been under the care of Dwijapada Som since October 15 after another doctor, P.K. Chanda, had failed to improve the baby’s condition. Som, who is attached to the Chinsurah Imambara Hospital, saw Saubhik for the last time at 8.30 pm on October 27. The baby died six hours later.
Last-minute attempts by two other doctors, Dilip Dhar Chaudhuri and S.K. Bindai, failed to save him.
Krishna lodged a complaint with the Hooghly District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum against all four doctors, accusing them of negligence that led to her son’s death. The forum, however, said the case was too complicated for it and could only be heard in a civil court.
The Hazras appealed to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, which concurred with the district forum. But the national commission, to which the couple went next, disagreed and told the district forum to deal with the case.
The forum took up the case on August 10 this year. After hearing out both parties, two members of the three-member forum concluded that Som was guilty of negligence.
Kalipada Basu and Bula Kolay felt the doctor should have referred Saubhik to either the Imambara Hospital or any of the seven reputed nursing homes within a kilometre of the Hazra residence. His failure to refer the baby to an institution with round-the-clock health-care facilities was inexplicable, they said.
But the consumer court fined Som only Rs 10,000. “No compensation is sufficient for the loss of a son,” the members said, turning down the demand for a compensation of Rs 5 lakh. “But let this be a warning for all other physicians.”
The Hazras’ lawyers are not satisfied with the “incomplete” verdict.
Sushanta Sengupta, a member of the legal team, said: “The forum found the doctor guilty and there was nothing incomplete about his negligence…. So how can the punishment be incomplete'”
The lawyers are now exploring avenues to approach the National Commission directly, he added.
Som said he was not satisfied with the verdict either. “My lawyers are now thinking of appealing against the majority verdict,” he added, claiming that the baby had been referred to a senior paediatrician in Calcutta before he died.