In a case of justice awfully delayed for a family from Tamil Nadu, a civil court in Chennai has directed the Institute Of Child Health and Hospital for Children in Chennai to pay a sum of Rs 20 lakh to a man who was infected with HIV positive blood as a toddler. The court has also ordered the government to provide employment to the 21-year-old to enable him to live the rest of his life with dignity.
In 1999, the couple, who worked as daily wage labourers, admitted their nine-month-old son to the hospital, popularly known as the Egmore Childrenâ€™s Hospital, following complaints of diarrhea and vomiting. The couple was told that their son needed a blood transfusion as well as surgery since his intestines were intertwined. The court found that since the couple were not able to comprehend the medical issues explained by the doctor, they requested the doctors to do what they thought was the best to save him from pain. While the blood transfusion was unsuccessful prior to the surgery, it was possible for the doctors to transfuse the blood after surgery. However, just two days after the surgery, the toddler fell ill again and was taken to the hospital. Blood tests soon revealed that the child was HIV positive, despite no close relatives or parents being infected.
The government hospital had claimed that Sriram* 'could have contracted the disease due to inadequate treatment taken in a private hospital.' Judge Thenmozhe of the XVII Additional City Civil Court said that no proof was forthcoming from the government to substantiate this claim. â€śWhen this court puts specific question to the Egmore Childrenâ€™s Hospital, it has been stated that no surgery was conducted on victim in a private hospital and no blood was transfused to him in any private hospital. His parents are poor coolies and the mother has specifically stated that she has not taken any treatment in a private hospital for her son. The Egmore Childrenâ€™s Hospital who is equipped with a government machinery with several facilities ought to have verified the allegations in their written statement.â€ť observed the judge.
The court also noted that the loss and physical and mental injury caused to the family is irretrievable. "The knowledgeable and skilled person from the hospital breached duty of care and protection. Hospital failed to convey the risk accompanying in the blood transfusion and negligently contaminated blood which is hazard to life and health passed to petitioner's son's tender body and made his body as carriage for life threatening virus,â€ť observed the court.
While the government hospital argued that it had already paid Rs 50,000 to Sriram's family, the civil court said that that this was merely towards medical expenses and cannot be considered as compensation for the negligence on the part of the [hospital] employees.
Elaborating on the social and emotional costs, the court deemed Rs 9 lakh for mental agony, Rs 3 lakh for medical expenses, Rs 2 lakh for pain and suffering, Rs 2 lakh for loss of family life, Rs 1 lakh for loss of job opportunities, Rs 1 lakh for travel expenses and extra nourishment, Rs 2 lakh for loss of social statusâ€” a total of Rs 20 lakh.