Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madras High Court has held that the Government is obligated to offer ex gratia payment to an aggrieved party if an injury or death is caused, that is not anticipated in the normal course of nature.
The court directed the State of Tamil Nadu to pay rupees five lakhs to the family of a Dalit girl who died in 2016 after complications from the anesthesia admitted to her before a tonsil surgery.
The petitioner in this case had submitted that his daughter (the deceased) was suffering from tonsil related disease and was admitted in a government hospital for surgery. For preparing the child for surgery, anesthesia was administered but she developed some complications and was shifted to Rajaji Government Hospital, Madurai. Eventually, she went into a coma and passed away in July, 2016.
The petitioner alleged that the death of his child was purely due to medical negligence on part of the hospital and the anesthetist, and filed a writ petition demanding payment of compensation.
The High Court noted that a drug by the name Propofol was administered to the child which “is not an intrinsically dangerous drug and it is very much administered to children above 3 years of age.”
There was also nothing on record to indicate that she had any mitochondrial disease which was omitted to be noticed by the doctors that could cause any complication. Justice Swaminathan reportedly said, “There are always instances when a drug does not accord with the body of the patient and that leads to unfortunate complications. The case on hand appears to be one such. Therefore, I do not find any ground to hold that the respondent anesthetists have committed any act of medical negligence.”
As the court established that there was no medical negligence, it said that there was no doubt or question about compensation. He narrated the ordeal of the petitioner’s child who “should have been discharged after successfully conducting surgery. But what the petitioner got was only the dead body of her child. Neither the petitioner nor her child was at fault.”
It further held, “When a patient is admitted in a government hospital for treatment and he/she suffers any injury or death which is not anticipated to occur in the normal course of events, even in the absence of medical negligence, the government is obliged to disburse ex gratia to the affected party. In the case on hand, liability has to be fastened on the government.”
The Court registered that Tamil Nadu has created a corpus fund toward which every Government doctor contributes a certain sum of money, and accordingly directed for the compensation of rupees 5 lakhs to be paid to the petitioner from this fund within a period of eight weeks from the date of receipt of copy of the instant order.
The judgment may be read here: