In what has been deemed as the case which divided the medical fraternity into two blocs over the last two decades, the final nail comes with a sigh of relief to one section whereas it is a disappointment to the other.
The Supreme Court while rejecting Dr Kunal Saha’s plea for cancellation of the licenses of the doctors involved in the case of his wife, Dr Anuradha Sinha’s death due to medical negligence in 1998 made it clear that justice had been served. The dragging legal crusade brought Dr Kunal Saha the highest ever compensation in a case of medical negligence in Indian history — a whopping Rs 6.08 crore plus interest. Although nothing can replace a life lost, especially the loss of an utmost loved one, that too for someone else’s fault, a big chunk of the doctors feel that to pursue the cancellation of the licenses of the doctors involved is not justified, while many others are in support of Dr Kunal Saha and believe that it would only be fair and act as a deterrence for any such negligence in the future.
In the landmark order of 2013 in which the Supreme Court bench had directed Kolkata’s AMRI Hospital and three of its doctors to pay the hefty amount as compensation to Dr Saha, around 15 years after his wife died owing to faulty medical treatment, the court noted that treatment with dignity was “not only a fundamental right” but “also a human right”. The court in the same order had also asked the Centre and the state governments to “deal strictly” with doctors, hospitals and nursing homes found to be negligent with patients “who come to them pawning all their money”. Thus the court had taken into account the precedent that this judgment would hold for any cases of negligence in future. The medical fraternity accepted the decision of the Supreme Court without much hullabaloo thus keeping our faith in the fairness of the Apex Court of Justice.
To err is human. Although a profession like medical science requires knowledge, precision, expertise and focus amongst a million other qualities, because there is no space for mistakes, yet justice has its own limitations and context. For e.g., the utterly skewed ratio of doctors to patients in our country and the fact that 20 years have passed and so has one of the four guilty doctors (Dr Abani Roy Chowdhury). In the words of Dr Kunal Saha himself (after the Supreme Court order in 2013): “Money is not the issue. I had sought damages of Rs 77 crore. The judgment will act as deterrence. It’s a historic judgment. The Supreme Court verdict should rekindle hope for countless of victims of medical negligence who have not been able to see the end of the tunnel after fighting for justice for years. Do not give up hope, justice will come in the end.” Thus we should all probably welcome this move of the Supreme Court with open arms and reassert our faith in the system of justice in our country. Let peace be upon late Dr Anuradha Saha and her bereaved family.