Case Study

Wheel chair, a Medical Device?


FACTS:  Complainant Smt. Harsha Ashok Lala  came to the P.D. Hinduja National Hospital  on 9.10.2012 at around 1.15 PM for follow-up checkup after her spinal surgery in the last week of September 2012. It was alleged that she was very rashly and negligently wheeled from hospital corridor, on the ramp by an un-identified security guard without putting the seat belt, as a result of which she suffered ‘head on fall’ from the wheelchair and sustained  fracture of left (ankle) lower end fibular tip, that immediate first aid was not given, and she was made to stand in que for payment of X-Ray charges which caused further pain and agony, that the incidence was reported immediately to the Hospital authorities but no avail, that Hospital willfully avoided informing the police about such serious accident in their premises. She filed the Consumer Complaint before the District Forum and claimed compensation of Rs.16,00,000/-. She also filed one Criminal Complainant –  FIR in the concerned Police Station.

DEFENSE: That the Complainant was old patient of their hospital, admitted the fall of the patient from the wheelchair on 9.10.2012, that junior doctor attended her immediately and provisional diagnosis mentioned as undisplaced fracture of lower end of left tibia. The treating doctor, Dr. Sanjay Agarwal, examined her and ruled out any fracture or any dislocation of left ankle joint and mentioned, it was only swelling around the ankle joint. A Sugar tong splint was given which was to be removed after 5 days and Air Cast splint was advised to be worn after 5 days. The patient was treated as per standards.

LOWER FORA:  The District Forum partly allowed the complaint and directed the Petitioner Hospital to pay Rs. 1,00,000/- as compensation and Rs. 10,000/- towards cost of legal proceedings to the Complainant. The State Commission dismissed the appeal with costs  of Rs. 25,000/- on the Petitioner with modification of the Order of District Forum that the Hospital was directed to pay Rs. 3,51,000/- to the Complainant within one month from the date of the order failing which, the amount was to carry interest at the rate of 9% per annum.

HELD: The Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down the ingredients of medical negligence in its various judgments, none of which are found in the instant case. In my view, prima-facie, this case does not fall strictly in medical negligence.   Wheelchairs are usually thought of a medical device that is meant to help those who are injured or have physical challenges; they can also be a source of injury when not properly used. Most wheelchair injuries that happen in a medical setting due to the negligence of medical staff and such could be easily prevented by hospital or nursing home.  As a word of caution, in my view, the Hospital authority should make systemic improvement in their administration and their grievance redressal mechanism to ensure the patient’s safety and to maintain good Doctor-Patient relationship.    In the instant case, having regard to the fact that patient underwent mental agony and physical trauma and the quantum of award made by the State Commission appears just and equitable in the facts of the case. No palpable crucial error in appreciating the evidence by the two fora below, as may cause to require de novo re-appreciation in revision, is visible. No jurisdictional error, or legal principle ignored, or miscarriage of justice, is visible. Nothing warrants interference with the impugned Order of the State Commission in the exercise of the revisional jurisdiction of this Commission.Based on the forgoing discussion, the Revision Petition is dismissed.

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