Malay Kumar Ganguly v Sukumar Mukherjee case is a landmark case in tort which decided whether criminal liability in the cases of medical negligence in tort can be put on the doctor or not.
1. This is the Criminal Appeal filed by the complainant – Malay Kumar Ganguly (relative of the deceased) against the order by HC in favor of the defendants – Sukumar Mukherjee and Others (respondents herein).
2. Appellant’s relative Anuradha (deceased) suffered from Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) and was treated by Dr. Sukumar (respondent 1) and other respondents separately prescribing high doses of steroids. Anuradha’s condition deteriorated and died.
3. Complainant filed Criminal complaint before CJM, Alipore for offences under 304A IPC against the respondents/accused.
Complaint was filed by Kunal (Anuradha’s husband) before NCDRC and West Bengal Medical Council claiming compensation for alleged deficiency in the service rendered by the respondents. CJM, Alipore held respondent 1 & 2 guilty of 304A IPC. NCDRC & WBMC dismissed the complaints by Kunal.
4. Respondents filed Cr Appeals before Sessions Judge to set aside CJM’s judgement whereas complainant filed Revision Petition before Session Judge for enhancement of punishment and Revision Petition before HC questioning the legality of judgement acquitting respondent 3.
Hearing criminal appeals by respondents and Revision Petition by complainant together, HC acquitted respondents and dismissed Revision Petition by complainant. Therefore this appeal.
1. Complainant contend that the respondents were negligent in treating Anuradha as they administered steroids which were responsible for immunosuppression and further deteriorating her condition, relying on the opinions and examination of TEN disease experts who claim 120 mg of steroids as an overdose.
2. Respondents contend that administering steroids to TEN patients was ordinary practice in the treatment. As there is no specific treatment for TEN, error of judgment in diagnosis does not amount to deficiency in service, considering TEN to be a rare disease.
Ratio & Decision:
1. SC said that after initial evidences by Kunal regarding the respondent’s negligence by administering high doses of steroids to Anuradha, onus of proof shifts to the respondents.
2. SC held the respondents liable for negligence as maximum recommended dosage was exceeded in this case. Further, prescription of Depomedrol was without diagnosing the nature of the disease. No symptomatic therapy was administered. No emergency care was provided. No other routine pathological examination was carried out.
3. Regarding applicability of 304A IPC in the instant case, cumulative negligent actions led to the death of the patient. Doctrine of cumulative effect is not available in criminal law. The complexities involved are also of differing nature of negligence; make it very difficult to distil individual extent of negligence with respect to each of the respondent. In such a scenario finding of medical negligence under section 304-A is not possible.
4. Therefore, criminal appeals by complainant dismissed. However, civil appeal for compensation is allowed for the negligence on the part of the accused, thereby, directing AMRI and Dr. Mukherjee to pay costs of 5,00,000/- and 1,00,000/- respectively to the complainant.
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