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  • NRI, US Dr. Saha wife's Anuradha Saha case: In 1998, his wife, a child psychologist died due to the negligence of two doctors in Calcutta.
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  • Kolkata, Nov 03, 2005: NRI US scientist challenged the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court for his wife's death by negligence of two doctors

NRI takes on West Bengal over medical negligence

Kolkata, Nov 03, 2005

By Sujoy Dhar, Kolkata: In a crusade against medical negligence he says is rife in India, an NRI scientist based in the US has challenged the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court for "shielding doctors accused of medical negligence".

Kunal Saha, a noted AIDS vaccine researcher at the Children's Hospital and Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio, launched his fight against medical negligence after his wife died in a city hospital in 1998.

And in the past seven years, his case has gone from the lowest to the highest courts in India. But now the Supreme Court is set to start final hearing in the case in February.

The case came on a writ petition challenging West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's statement in July that doctors could not be arrested without prior approval of a medical committee in cases of alleged negligence.

The lawsuit was filed in July by People for Better Treatment (PBT), an organisation set up by Saha and comprising doctors and other professionals.

"Rather than trying to bring justice to the defenceless victims of medical malpractices, the chief minister issued a directive not to arrest and charge any errant doctor under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) without the prior approval of a special 'medical committee'," Saha told IANS.

"The constitution does not give a chief minister the right to provide immunity against IPC to members of a particular profession. Our petition highlights the issue," said Saha.

"Seven years ago, on May 28, a young life (his wife Anuradha, a child psychologist) was needlessly lost due to blatantly wrong therapy by several so-called 'eminent' doctors in the city.

Saha later formed PBT to make his crusade into a mass movement.

He has filed cases against three doctors and the AMRI hospital where Anuradha was treated before being shifted to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai where she died from the TEN (Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis) syndrome.

Besides, Saha had also filed a whopping Rs.770 million compensation case at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NDCRC) in New Delhi against the hospital.

Saha, who has left for the US, will be back in India later this month when the NDCRC case comes up between Nov 16 and 18. He has pledged to donate the entire money towards betterment of healthcare in India if he wins the case.

Saha also accused the Indian Medical Association (IMA) of misinterpreting earlier judgments of the Supreme Court.

"The association claims that the apex court had barred police from arresting doctors for criminal negligence. On the contrary, the court had categorically ruled that the internationally-accepted Bolam principle would be followed by our judiciary as well."

The Bolam principle states that a doctor can be charged with "criminal negligence" if he acts in a manner not followed by other "responsible" medical bodies and if the treatment results in a loss of life.

Doctors in face-off over new institute

Calcutta, April 29, 2005
The telegraph,

Weeks before the showdown between physicians Sukumar Mukherjee and Kunal Saha gets underway in the Supreme Court, the two doctors are involved in a confrontation over a new medical institute, headed by Mukherjee.

Saha, who had charged Mukherjee with negligence leading to the death of his wife Anuradha over a decade ago, has approached the Medical Council of India (MCI) with another complaint against the veteran doctor.

The NRI doctor — founder and president of People for Better Treatment, an organisation that fights medical negligence — has alleged that the newly-formed Indian Institute for Medical Technology (IIMT) does not have the necessary permission from the MCI.

“There is no denying that there is legal as well as moral obligation for any new medical institute to obtain permission from the appropriate division of the MCI before offering any course or training module for doctors. However, IIMT never obtained the required permission from the MCI before opening or offering medical courses for doctors,” Saha has stated in his complaint to the medical council.

He also said in his complaint that since Mukherjee will stand trial in the apex court, he must be removed as president of IIMT.

The high court had earlier acquitted the veteran doctor in the negligence case.

C.K. Chatterjee, secretary and convener of IIMT, said the institute was started after clearing all legal hurdles.

“Kunal Saha spoke to me from the US. I told him that we would not remove Mukherjee or ask him to resign. Saha might not know that permission from the MCI is not mandatory for starting a certificate course for doctors. We are not awarding any degree or diploma,” Chatterjee added.

“We got in touch with the government and there does not seem to be a problem on the legal front,” he continued.

IIMT, which is located in Joka, offers a three-month certificate course for doctors in handling of medical equipment.

Recently, a mannequin was brought to the institute from the National Medical College and Hospital for practical classes.

“Our focus is to show doctors, especially the younger group, better ways to handle crisis and improve healthcare, especially in critical situations,” said Chatterjee.

The course teaches doctors the correct ways to handle ECG, multi-parameter monitor, pulse oxymeter, defibrillator and ventilator, among a host of other equipment.

The faculty of IIMT comprises heads of departments of various hospitals.

“We have tried to rope in the best available doctors for the course. We simulate critical situations to help doctors deal with them better in real life,” Chatterjee signed off.

Calcutta HC rejects appeal by Dr Kunal Saha

Calcutta , April 30, 2003

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by NRI doctor Kunal Saha for removal of Dr Ashok Choudhury from the West Bengal Medical Council's Disciplinary Committee.

The committee dealt with Saha's complaint that three reputed Kolkata doctors -- Dr Baidyanath Haldar, Sukumar Mukherjee and Abani Roy Choudhury -- had been negligent in treating his wife Anuradha leading to her death in 1998 when on a visit to the metropolis.

A division bench comprising Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice Hrishikesh Mukherjee declined to interfere with the June 18, 2002 decision of the Medical Council appointing Dr Ashok Choudhury to the disciplinary committee.

Saha feared not getting a fair judgment from the committee alleging that Dr Choudhury was biased against him.

The NRI doctor had filed the appeal against an earlier high court order vide which Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta had rejected Saha's plea for removal of Dr Choudhury, who is also the president of the West Bengal Medical Council.

The Medical Council has already declared that the three doctors were not to be held responsible for Anuradha's death.

Doctors in aid of their tainted brethren

Subhayu Banerjee

Strange are the ways of justice in India. Here, if a complaint against any professional service is to be lodged, it has to be lodged with the statutory body of the respective service discipline. The members of the body, who are themselves persons of a particular profession, would proceed against someone belonging to their own profession. Really a strange thing. As a result of such an arrangement, in most cases, it is seen, that the affected party seldom gets any justice. The offender usually go scot-free.

Readers may be wondering why I have indulged in such vague discussions with any concrete matter. I am speaking about the doctor-patient relationship that has hit the lowest ebb following the war-like attitude of the doctors in response to the indictment of two of their brethren. In India if a patient is subjected to deliberate negligence (which is a norm nowadays rather than an exception), he or she is required to lodge a complaint with the respective State chapter of Indian Medical Council. Here, is a panel of doctors would then decide the fate of their professional colleague. A ridiculous arrangement indeed. In most cases it was seen that the doctors went scot-free killing more and more patients with impunity.

Gone are the days, when a doctor was considered a good Samaritan of the area. Even during the decade of 70s, doctors were available throughout the night. Nowadays, doctors are loath to leave the comfort of the confines of their homes at night.

True, doctors are not expected to render charitable service throughout their lifetime, but they are at least expected to pay attention to those from whom they are charging fees. Fees have skyrocketed in recent years, and the service have taken a nose-drive. Taking commissions for referring to nursing homes, or diagnostic centres are commonplace phenomena and no one raises an eyebrow if one hears of commissions. Yet, the doctors speak of deteriorating patient-doctor relationship. Can’t they indulge in some degree of self-introspection?

Dr. Kunal Saha managed to mount the insurmountable. In 1998, his wife died due to the negligence of two doctors. He filed three cases against the doctors, who were responsible for his wife’s death. One case was filed regarding claims with the consumer court, the other was a complaint with the West Bengal Medical Council and the last one was a case of criminal negligence, a criminal case filed against the three doctors. The doctors tried their level best to thwart the probe.

But perseverance and money-power of Dr. Kunal Saha finally paid off. Dr. Saha staked his fortune to take his fight to a logical conclusion. And he succeeded. The Chief Judicial Magistrate found the two doctors of the accused trio, Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee and Dr. Baidyanath Halder, were held guilty of ‘negligent and inappropriate treatment’.

Dr. Abani Roychowdhury was acquitted for lack of evidence. The verdict of the court literally opened a Pandora’s box. The very next day of the pronouncement of judgement saw thousands of people thronging the organisation floated by Dr. Kunal Saha, People For Better Treatment, to seek advice to redress their grievances.

The supentine queue to seek advice was evidence enough of the people’s disillusionment with the medical profession. Yet, people have to go the doctors. The doctors would charge high fees and then neglect the patient.

Nowadays, doctors hardly attend to house calls, because the ailing patient may not be able to afford high fees. The nursing homes would charge according to their own will, but pay scant regard to the service. In most cases, even the records are not handed over to the unsuspecting patients’ relative. We say that the magic healers play with the faith of the people but are doctors any different? Perhaps they know the answer.

The doctors, instead of going all out to defend the accused, should do well to put their own house in order. Only then would they have the moral right to defend the indefensible. Till then, should the patients allowed to suffer? I don’t have the answer.

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NRI, Dr. Saha filed three cases against the doctors, who were responsible for his wife’s death. Doctors invilved in this case:

Sukumar Mukherjee, Abani Roychowdhury, Baidyanath Halder, Balaram Prasad and Kausik Nandy) and AMRI-Apollo Hospital in Kolkata

Kunal Saha, M.D., Ph.D.
Asst Professor
College of Medicine and Public Health
Pediatrics - Molecular Medicine
Children's Hospital Research