“Yet to win war against negligence”
His relentless fight might have taken away the ‘untouchable shield’ from doctors guilty of medical negligence, but Indian American doctor Mr Kunal Saha insists there are miles to go to cleanse the Indian healthcare system—plagued by corruption and inefficiency
Having lost his wife in 1998 to faulty medical treatment, Mr Saha’s unrelenting pursuit for justice bore fruit 15 years later when the Supreme Court in October 2013 directed Kolkata’s AMRI Hospital and three of its doctors to pay the highest-ever compensation of Rs. 11.5 crore (nearly USD 2 million).
Shuttling between the US and Kolkata, veering from one court to another and taking on the might of a corrupt administration and battling his own occupational fraternity, Mr Saha’s fight for his beloved wife Ms Anuradha is the stuff of a Bollywood film where justice eventually pervades over all evil.
But Mr Saha, often hailed as a ‘one man army’, insists the war is yet to be won.
“Our fight surely has instilled some degree of trepidation in the minds of the hitherto ‘untouchable’ negligent and unscrupulous medicos. But we still have a long, long way to go before winning our battle for establishing a standard and corruption-free healthcare delivery system for all patients of India,” the Columbus (Ohio)-based Mr Saha said in an interview.
While the medico-legal scenario in India may have undergone a change since Ms Anuradha’s fateful death, Mr Saha says it was yet not adept enough to counter medical negligence that has been assuming alarming proportions in the country.
“We have moved ahead from the days of medico-legal cases being virtually non-existent, but most cases of medical malpractice are dismissed by the consumer courts primarily due to the lack of supporting opinions from medical experts.
“In order to maintain their ‘untouchable’ status, doctors in India are reluctant to come forward and truthfully testify against their errant medical colleagues, unlike in the Western countries,” said Mr Saha.
Besides the high costs involved in legal proceedings, Mr Saha points to the paltry amount of compensation awarded against the errant medicos which fail to have any deterrent effect.