Radiologist fined 17.5L for anomaly scan

Holding that doctors are duty-bound to detect any anomaly in a fetus, the state consumer commission recently ordered a nursing clinic and its doctors to pay Rs 17.5 lakh as damages to a woman who gave birth in 1999 to a baby with severe spinal defects. The child, "though of good intelligence", is paralyzed waist down, the commission said. Wheelchair-bound, she completed her Class X last year.
The mother had approached the commission in 2000 alleging negligence by her doctors in not detecting the defects, despite conducting over half a dozen sonography tests.
"Nalini Sule (name changed), was subjected to seven-eight sonographies and yet not diagnozed with any malformation of the fetus. This amounts to gross negligence by doctors... Certainly, the doctors and clinic are liable to compensate her," it said .
The nursing home based in Nashik and a doctor couple attached to it, Dr Pradip Pawar and Dr Suwarna Pawar, were guilty of deficiency in service, held presiding judicial member Usha Thakare and commission member Dhanraj Khamatkar.
Dr Pradip, who had conducted the tests, denied negligence on his part or that of his wife, who owns the clinic. He was confident about the accuracy of the tests which showed a "normal" fetus.
Sule was referred to Dr Pawar in 1998 after failure to conceive. The baby, she said, was "precious" to her. But "dissatisfied" with the way the doctors handled her case and asked her to get admitted to the hospital twice, she consulted another doctor, also in Nashik, who advised sonography and neonatal tests in March 1999. "The results came as a shock to everyone, including the doctor," the commission said. It showed the fetus had "meningocoele-a severe congenital malformation." This was in the 37th week of pregnancy.
On March 16, 1999, a girl child with congenital and incurable defects in both lower limbs was delivered. "Paediatric surgeons operated on the child twice, but except for some relief, major problems of movement, bladder and bowel function persist," observed the commission.
Sule sought Rs 17.5 lakh compensation to look after the child.
The doctors accused Sule of making "wild allegations" to extract "a handsome ransom" and denied any negligence. "Ultra sonography has its limitations...," said Dr Pawar who relied on the expert evidence of three doctors. The doctors argued the commission was not the correct forum to hear this complex case of facts and law, in a summary trial. The commission, relying on Supreme Court rulings, held otherwise.

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