SC directs Karnataka's Manipal Hospital to pay Rs 10 Lakh to patient for loss of voice

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Court ordered to double the compensation of Rs five lakh awarded by district consumer forum

The Supreme Court has directed Karnataka's Manipal Hospital to pay Rs 10 lakh to the family members of a patient for deficiency in service during lung surgery in 2003 resulting into development of hoarseness of voice affecting his career prospects.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah decided to double the compensation of Rs five lakh awarded by the district consumer forum to one J Douglas Luiz, having noted that the complainant died during the proceedings before the NCDRC and no useful purpose would be served for directing re-appreciation of the evidence.

The appellant was aggrieved by the order of November 15, 2017, passed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi whereby the revision petition was dismissed. The Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Bangalore had confirmed the order of May 10, 2006, passed by the District Consumer Forum.

His counsel contended that despite finding deficiency in service, the district forum arrived at a rough and ready figure of Rs five lakh as compensation.

The NCDRC found that the deceased appellant had undergone major surgery of the left lung on October 31, 2003 and post-operation, he had developed hoarseness in his voice. Though an assurance was given by the operating surgeon to the deceased appellant that the hoarseness could be due to the operation that involved complete removal of the tumor the patient could regain his voice within six to eight months with nebulization and voice therapy.

During the operation, though the Head of the Department of Anaesthesia was to administer anaesthesia to the deceased-appellant, it was administered by a doctor who was qualified but was a trainee anaesthetist in the Cardiac Anaesthesia Department.

"The NCDRC frowned on the delegation of such a critical duty on a trainee anaesthetist and treated the same as a breach of duty of care and observed that having regard to the material on record and the medical literature, the dislocation of the left Arytenoid was on account of the trauma caused which led to the paralysis of the vocal cord of the deceased-appellant and that the RLN injury does not cause dislocation of Arytenoid," the counsel pointed out.

"In other words, the paralysis of the left vocal cord of the deceased-appellant was attributed to the faulty insertion of the Double Lumen Tube in the course of administering anaesthesia to him for undergoing the surgery," the counsel added.

The hospital's counsel questioned the findings of the consumer fora. 

"However, the records reveal that the Hospital did not object to the said expert doctors deposing in the case, nor did the Hospital file an application for an expert to be appointed by the District Forum for giving an opinion in the instant case," the bench said.

"Mere reliance on medical literature would not be sufficient to exonerate the Hospital from its duty of ensuring that the Head of the Department, Anaesthesia ought to have inserted the Double Lumen Tube. Instead, he was not available and the task was delegated to a trainee anaesthetist," the bench pointed out.

The counsel for the appellant also submitted that the deceased was working as an Area Sales Manager in the private sector and was deprived of his career promotion.

He said that the appellant had virtually lost his voice and continued on the same post from the year 2003 onwards without promotion till he expired at the end of the year 2015. He was working on the same salary as was being paid to him at the time of his initial engagement, i.e. Rs 30,000 per month.

"Given these facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the opinion that the District Forum ought to have taken all these aspects into consideration for arriving at a rightful compensation payable to the deceased which in the instant case, has not been done," the bench said, raising the amount from Rs five lakh to 10 lakh to be paid to the widow of the patient.

Case Title: J Douglas Luiz (Since Deceased) Through Legal Representatives Vs Manipal Hospital