MCI indicts Saha case docs

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  • Published 24.05.11

New Delhi, May 23: India’s apex medical council has indicted two doctors in Calcutta for negligence and breaching standard medical protocols in treating a woman who later died. The decision overturns their exoneration by the Bengal medical council.

The ethics committee of the Medical Council of India has said that while the two treating doctors, Sukumar Mukherjee and B.N. Halder, had acted in good faith, they were negligent and did not follow standard protocol in treating the patient.

The woman, Anuradha Saha, died in May 1998 at age 36 following complications after treatment initiated when she had developed fever and skin rash in Calcutta about a month earlier.

Her husband, Kunal Saha, a US-based physician, said today the MCI’s verdict exposes “the rotten state of affairs” in the medical council that had examined the case and exonerated both doctors in 2002.

The MCI’s ethics committee has recommended that Mukherjee and Halder, who are both in their 70s now, should be disallowed from practising medicine for three months by the state council.

Mukherjee had prescribed an overdose of a long-acting steroid to Anuradha, high for a patient with her skin condition and exceeding the maximum recommended usage by the drug manufacturer, the MCI’s ethics committee said.

“The prescription of a long-acting steroid without foreseeing its implications is certainly an act of negligence on his part without any care or caution.”

It said Halder, who took over Anuradha’s treatment after Mukherjee, did not take any remedial measures against the excessive amounts of long-acting steroid, but “added more fuel to the fire” by prescribing a quick-acting steroid.

The committee said Anuradha’s vital signs such as temperature, pulse and blood pressure were not monitored. “All these factors are considered to be the basic necessary amenities to be provided to any patient who is critically ill. The failure of Dr Halder to ensure that these factors are monitored regularly is certainly an act of negligence.”

Anuradha’s condition had deteriorated and she was shifted to a hospital in Mumbai where she died a little over a month after she had developed the rash. Her death prompted Kunal to wage India’s longest-running campaign against medical negligence.

“It is now undisputed that a young life was lost as a result of medical negligence,” Kunal said in a statement that termed the MCI decision “historic”. that emerged after years of “a seemingly impossible battle” against corrupt members of the medical community.

“This will send a strong signal of hope for countless other victims of medical negligence across India.”

Kunal had appealed to the MCI after the medical council had ruled in 2002 that the allegations of negligence by Mukherjee, Halder and another doctor, Abani Roy, who has since died, had not been established.

“The state medical council had buddies shielding buddies,” Kunal said.

Saha said he plans to approach the Bengal government to ask for a change in the state medical council. “This council should be disbanded and a new council should be set up through free and fair elections where all doctors get a fair chance.”