The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sugar suit court split over Pratim presence

The South 24-Parganas district consumer disputes redressal forum has completed its hearing of state fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee’s case against Apollo Gleneagles Hospital and is likely to deliver its verdict in a few days, after being split over whether to call the minister himself to court to testify in person.

The outcome of the case, which created a fair bit of interest because of the identity of the complainant, was to have been declared on Tuesday itself. But the verdict could not be delivered because of the absence of one of the two members of the bench hearing the case.

The minister filed the case against Apollo Gleneagles after the reports of two different tests — to ascertain the level of sugar in his blood — taken within 24 hours of each other were found to vary “widely”. A third test, carried out by another reputed diagnostic centre in the city, gave yet another figure, prompting the minister to take the help of a consumers’ association.

The hearing of the case has not been without its share of drama. The day the court took up the case for the last time, it appeared divided over the necessity of calling Chatterjee to appear in person. One of the two-man bench felt it was essential to do so, as conventional medical opinion held that levels of sugar in the blood could fluctuate wildly, depending on the time of testing and “factors influencing lifestyle”.

Forum member B.C. Gomes, therefore, felt that the minister’s presence was essential. Forum president P.C. Kundu, however, felt it was best not to call the minister to court. “What are we going to ask him'” he asked.

Santanu Mukherjee, who represented the minister in court, said the two sugar tests conducted by Apollo Gleneagles on two consecutive days showed reports of 315 mg/dl and 241 mg/dl. Another report, given by another diagnostic centre, showed only 180 mg of sugar in every decilitre of blood. The three tests, taken together, proved “prima facie” negligence in “collecting, preserving and/or carrying samples of blood and measuring the blood-sugar count”, he alleged.

But the Apollo team, led by Prabir Basu and Anjan Datta, countered every allegation. Quoting from two widely-respected medical texts (Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry and Textbook of Diabetes), they said “lifestyle” factors could influence the level of sugar in blood. These factors could influence the content of sugar by “20 per cent to 50 per cent”, they said. Another text was cited to show how “blood-glucose levels in type-I diabetes fluctuate widely through the day and are generally unpredictable”.

Consumer affairs department officials said the verdict would be delivered as soon as the two-member bench sat down in full strength.

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