The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crusade on neglect shuts killer clinic

The odds were all against him and justice looked a distant dream, but Utsav Basu never gave up.

Ever since wife Bandana died during a cataract operation in November 2004, the 61-year-old has been on a lone crusade, seeking justice for her death 'due to medical negligence'.

Now, some 16 months later, he sees a flicker of hope ' the clinic where his wife died has been temporarily closed down on an order from the state health department and the doctor, too, has stopped treating patients.

The clinic was found to have neither a trade licence nor a licence under the West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act and the doctor was found not to have conducted the requisite pre-operation tests.

When contacted by Metro, a clinic employee said the doctor could not be spoken to as he was not keeping well.

'No matter how true your case is, it's always difficult to fight such a case,' Basu told Metro.

'When I went around with my appeals, many thought I was eyeing monetary compensation. People wanted to set a price for me to stop pursuing the matter. Instead, I offered them the same amount and asked them to bring back my wife,' he recalled.

On October 19, 2004, Utsav and Bandana had turned up at the Russell Street clinic of Dr V. Pahwa for treatment of a cataract in her right eye. The doctor advised Phaco surgery, which was set for November 23.

Soon after the operation began, Bandana complained of uneasiness. Pahwa immediately abandoned the procedure and switched to another mode of operation, but that did not help matters.

With Bandana's pulse failing, the clinic called for a cardiologist. Pahwa and his team, meanwhile, tried to revive Bandana through drugs, cardiac massage and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But she died moments after the cardiologist arrived.

Basu claimed he had informed the doctor that his wife was a diabetic and had an ischaemic heart. 'Yet, he made no attempt to ascertain whether she was fit for the operation.'

Subsequent investigations by Satyabrata Bute, assistant director of the state health service, and by the director of Regional Institute of Ophthalmology revealed that the clinic did not have the required licences.

Bute also observed that Pahwa 'did not properly investigate the condition of the eye and the heart of the patient...' And the clinic lacked a 'support staff for intubation'.

Based on his report, the health department issued a letter to Pahwa, asking him to close the clinic.

One of the offices Basu had petitioned was that of Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi. The governor wrote back, advising him to lodge a police complaint. A case has been lodged with Shakespeare Sarani police station and it is with the detective department.

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