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Ex Gratia in govt hospitals even in absence of medical negligence

BACKGROUND:

In the present case, the petitioner’s 8-year-old daughter who was suffering from tonsils was admitted to the Government Hospital, Aruppukottai for treatment. She was suggested surgery by the doctors, and consequently, was administered anesthesia in that process. Thereafter, complications started arising and she was shifted to Rajaji Government Hospital, Madurai. She soon went into a coma over there and eventually passed away.

KEY CONCEPTS:

Concept of Medical Negligence In A.S. Mittal v. State of U.P., it was established that every doctor owes to his patients’ certain duties which are:

  • Duty of care in deciding whether to undertake the case.
  • Duty of care in deciding the right treatment.
  • Duty of care in the administration of that treatment.

Any breach in the above duties may lead to a cause of action for negligence and the doctor becomes liable to pay damages to the patient. Ex-gratia: Ex-gratia is paid to a party by an organization, government, or insurer for damages or claims, but it does not require the admittance of liability or responsibility by the party making such payment. It is considered voluntary because the party making the payment is not obligated to compensate the said individual or party. JUDGMENT OF THE COURT The Single-Judge Bench observed that the drug administered to the child was not inherently dangerous, but it could lead to complications for children with mitochondrial diseases. However, the Court noted that there was no such disease detected in the child by the doctors.

“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”.

However, although the Court rejected the allegation of medical negligence, it remarked that the Petitioner belonged to a notified Scheduled Caste community and that the child had been admitted to a government hospital. In this context, the Court decided that “even in the absence of negligence, the government is obliged to disburse ex-gratia to the affected party”.

Even though, the death was caused due to unforeseen and unanticipated injury or death after administration of anesthesia in a government hospital, the State has to compensate for unforeseen injury or death in a government hospital even if there is no medical negligence.

Accordingly, it was directed by the Court that the Tamil Nadu government provide a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the Petitioner from the corpus fund of the state within a period of 8 weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of the instant order.

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