No Damages if Medical History withheld: Court

Don’t lie or hide information from your doctor. In a significant verdict, the national consumer court has ruled that hiding medical history from a physician prior to treatment will rule out any right of the patient or the family to claim damages, from the doctor or the hospital, in case of complications during treatment.

“If a patient willfully chooses to withhold information from the physician, the doctor cannot be liable for medical negligence,” a bench headed by Justice JM Malik said while dismissing claims of damages by the wife of a sinus patient, who died shortly after being operated upon.

Complainant, Manju Anil Chawla had alleged that her husband’s death was a result of negligence by the surgeon and deficiency in service by the Jeevandhara Hospital, Ahmedabad. 

She had contended that her husband died within hours of the sinus surgery even though there has been no report of fatal complications due to such operations.

While Indian courts have been known to order compensation for death of patient in case of medical negligence, advocate Meenakshi Midha, representing the hospital and the doctors, said that this was a clear-cut case of concealment of medical history.

Midha informed the apex panel that the deceased and his family had concealed from the doctor, the patient’s history of hypertension and that he was on anti-hypertensive drugs, before the surgery. Midha said that the patient’s medical past, including heart and kidney problems, was discovered subsequent to his death.

“This is a case of contributory negligence. There was a mistake on the part of the patient as well as the complainant who did not disclose previous medical treatment and diseases to the doctor,” the bench said, noting: “since the doctor operated without the knowledge of heart disease, he cannot be found negligent”.

In October last year, the Supreme Court had enhanced compensation paid to a US-based NRI from ` 1.73 crore to ` 5.96 crore for the death of his wife in a Kolkata hospital due to maltreatment. This was the highest damages ever paid in a medical negligence case in India.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 27-01-2014

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