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Medical negligence painful to fight

  • WEENA PUN & MANISH GAUTAM
KATHMANDU, APR 14 -

Four years ago, Subba Pulami Magar’s newborn daughter lost her left leg due to a medical oversight that injected a saline solution through an artery instead of a vein. At the same hospital—the Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Thapathali—in 2007, a mother suffered a prolapsed uterus while her child has permanent neural damage following botched vacuum extraction during delivery. It was only after the Appellate Court issued a verdict earlier this year that Magar and the mother finally received compensation to the tune of Rs 1 million.  

Stories of medical negligence resulting in life-threatening complications are widespread. In late February, Laxman Bishwokarma of Sarlahi district checked into the Life Care Hospital in Sundhara on the recommendation of Gamca Nepal, an institution that refers aspiring migrant workers to health centres, for a routine medical examination before flying abroad. At the hospital, Bishwokarma was diagnosed with hypertension with a blood pressure of 150/110 mmHg and subsequently prescribed two different medications. After just two days, Bishwokarma started to suffer from headaches and nausea.

“When I complained about the effects to Dr Rabi Rauniyar, he forced me into buying a three-month supply of the drugs,” said Bishwokarma. Independent examinations at a nearby clinic and at the Gangalal Hospital revealed that his blood pressure was normal, prompting Bishwokarma to file a case against Gamca Nepal, Life Care Hospital, Dr Rauniyar and the pharmacy where he obtained the medicine.

Dr Rauniyar, however, denies the allegations, arguing that the man is a fraud and is pressing charges with malicious intent. “The real Laxman Bishwakarma whom I prescribed the medicine to left the country on March 27,” said Dr Rauniyar.The Forum for the Protection of Consumer Rights (FPCR), an organisation fighting for compensation on behalf of the victims of medical negligence, said that the main reason behind such medical crimes is irresponsible, unaccountable and commercialised doctors. “Encouraging such doctors are consumers who are unaware of their health rights,” said Jyoti Baniya, FPCR general secretary.

“Every individual has the right to question their doctor about their health, diagnosis, prognosis, prescription and the benefits and side-effects of medical treatment. Furthermore, the individual has a right to compensation if they fall victim to medical malpractice.”

Over 150 cases of medical negligence are currently lodged against doctors and hospitals at the District Administration Office (DAO) in Kathmandu. However, victims complained that the provision requiring such complaints to be first lodged with the district administration has slowed down the process of seeking justice. “A separate consumer court would have made the compensation and punitive system more effective,” said Baniya.

The Nepal Medical Council (NMC), a government body that regulates doctors and medical education in the country, also receives a number of complaints from patients dissatisfied with medical services. Dr Damodar Gajurel, NMC chairman, admitted that they have failed to take effective measures.

 “We have to be more careful. Still, mistakes happen. No doctor wants to kill or hurt their patient,” said Dr Kedar Narsingh KC, former president of the Nepal Medical Association. “Simply mandating compensation to victims will not solve the problem. It could lead to doctors leaving their profession,” KC said.

Posted on: 2013-04-15 10:03


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