The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), while upholding a lower court’s order in a case against a hospital, has urged the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to formulate proper guidelines for the maintenance of hospital records, in the best interests of doctor-patient relationship.

The case pertained to a brain surgery performed in 1997 on a girl, then aged 18. S Suryanarayan, whose daughter was advised surgery to treat her complaint of headache and vomiting, said he had been told by doctors at the Ramachandra Medical Centre that it would be a simple procedure, and that the girl, Seelam Pavani Pani, would be discharged in 10 days.

However, she was discharged only a month later, with severe complications, including 75 per cent permanent loss of functionality in her left hand and leg, a speech impairment and the prospect of life-long drug dependency.
In 2001 the hospital had advised a second surgery for the girl, but the parents refused.

Suryanarayan then approached the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, seeking compensation for medical negligence. Last year, the State Commission had absolved the hospital of the charge of conducting a ‘wrong’ surgery, but imposed a Rs.10 lakh fine on it for not producing the consent document as evidence.

Ramachandra Medical Centre appealed to the NCDRC. Counsel for the hospital told the apex consumer court that as the complaint was filed five years after the surgery, the patient’s records could not be produced. Under the Medical Council of India rules, medical records of patients need to be preserved only for three years by hospitals, he further submitted.

The NCDRC was, however, unconvinced by this argument. It noted that even after the lapse of five years, the hospital had been able to give detailed information about events like date, time and mode of treatment given to Pani. It wondered how this could be possible if records hadn’t been preserved, and said that the hospital had provided a “false and suspicious submission”.


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