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Medical negligence: Doctors fined for causing death of pregnant woman

Upholding a district forum order which found two doctors guilty of negligence, the Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission dubbed a doctor a 'quack' for administering anaesthesia despite not being qualified to do so. The commission has observed that no doctor can do a specialized job if he or she does not have the necessary qualification. Relying on the Supreme Court judgements which observed that 'unless the person holds a necessary qualification, he should not perform the job of the specialist', the commission's observation was done pertaining to a case 10 years ago where a woman died days after giving birth to her child following anaesthesia-related complications.

Observing that Dr Rathod was aware that Dr Jog did not hold either a post-graduate degree or diploma in anaesthesia which is a mandatory qualification for an anaesthetist as per the Medical Council of India, the commission directed gynaecologist Dr Sujata Rathod and physician Dr Vasant Kumar Jog to pay Rs 6.6 lakh as compensation to husband Shashikant Vichare and Rs 1.1 lakh and Rs 5.1 lakh to minor daughter and mother-in-law respectively.

The commission dubbed Dr Jog a 'quack' on the basis of an expert committee observation which states that a quack is a person who does not have knowledge of a particular system of medicine but practises in that system, and is a mere pretender of a medical knowledge or skill in effect, a charlatan.

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Vichare had filed a complaint before the forum in 2004 alleging that his wife Shashikala, who had been trying to get pregnant for 10 years, was registered as a patient with Rathod. During an examination on July 7, 2003, Rathod told Shashikala that there was foetal distress which called for an emergency Caesarean section. Dr Jog administered anaesthesia for the surgery performed by Dr Rathod. According to Vichare, the baby was born at 9.50pm. Both doctors left the nursing home by 10pm. On July 8, 2003 they examined her and no post-operative care was administered. The patient was then left in the care of an RMO, who was a homeopath.

Vichare alleged that Rathod let Jog conduct the anaesthetic procedure despite being aware that he was not eligible to do so. In his statement, Vichare said that Jog administered the wrong anaesthesia, which caused chest congestion. Shashikala died on August 9, 2003, at the hospital after a month's treatment due to bilateral pneumonia with impending adult/acute respiratory distress (ARDS). Supporting the family's claim the committee said that when a patient has respiratory tract infection it is a standard practice to administer spinal anaesthesia to minimize the complications. Despite this general anaesthesia was administered in Shashikala's case, the committee said

In her defence, Rathod vied that when Shashikala was treated for cold, cough and fever when she came to her for a check-up in June 2003. According to her, she repeatedly checked on the mother and baby even after the operation, and both were healthy. She got to know of Shashikala's death only on August 10. There was no negligence in the administration of the anaesthesia, Dr Jog argued. He said that as an anaesthetist, who had examined the patient and had also seen the medical treatment papers, found that she was fit to be administered anaesthesia.

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