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22 Jun 2018

22 years after death, hospital to pay Rs 19 lakh

Sumati Yengkhom and Falguni Banerjee | TNN | Jun 21, 2018 | KOLKATA: A consumer court on Wednesday directed a hospital to pay compensation of Rs 19,20,000 to the family of a boy who had died 22 years ago because he had been administered anti rabies vaccine that had been stored improperly.
The order is of special significance because the court had initially dismissed the family’s appeal, saying the boy was not a consumer, since he had availed himself of free treatment. The family had subsequently filed another petition, citing a Supreme Court observation that the recipient of free service was also a consumer.
On June 12, 1996, 15-year-old Dinanath Chowdhury was walking home in Gondalpara Jute Mill, Chandernagar, where his father used to work as a worker, when a stray bit him. The next morning, he was taken to the Chandannagar Sub-Divisional Hospital, where doctors reportedly sent the boy home without any medical attention, instead asking the family members to watch the dog for 10 days. The family went back to the hospital five days later, reporting that the dog had disappeared from the locality. It was only then that the boy was given an anti-rabies shot. He took anti-rabies shots for 10 days, but Dinanath’s condition kept deteriorating. He was taken to Beliaghata’s ID Hospital on August 7, where he died two days later of rabies.
Since then, his family has been running from pillar to post to get justice. They moved the Hooghly Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum days after the boy’s death. But the appeal was dismissed on the ground that Dinanath was not a consumer, as he was availing himself of free treatment. A fresh petition was filed with the state consumer court in 1998, where Rs 2 lakh compensation was awarded. But the state government challenged this at the National Consumer Redressal Forum. The apex consumer court observed that this was a fit case for compensation, but dismissed the compensation and the case, citing the same matter could not be raised again, as it had already been dismissed by the district consumer forum.
The family, however, did not accept defeat. After consulting legal experts, it filed another petition with the state consumer court in 2012, this time citing a 1995 Supreme Court observation that “free service would also be a service and the recipient a consumer”. The matter was sent back to the district. 

“After numerous hearings, the consumer forum on Wednesday directed the hospital to pay the compensation amount, along with Rs 10,000 as litigation fees to the victim’s family within a month. The family fought a long battle, during which they had to run from pillar to post to get justice,” said Parthapratm Dasgupta of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, who represented the case on behalf of the victim’s family.
Earlier, an expert committee on the case by the state human rights commission had said that the vaccine was ineffective, as it had not been preserved properly (it had been kept at room temperature), and Dinanath had not been given the right dose. On Wednesday, the consumer court cited this report while awarding the compensation. “We are yet to get a copy of the order. We will discuss the issue with higher officials once we get the order and take a decision,” said Dr Subhrangshu Chakraborty, the Hooghly CMOH.
Free service is of course a service, the SC is right. But compensation should be claimed against any free service. Tax payers are going to be cheated if it becomes a trend. However, criminal negligen... Read More
“Justice has come late but we are happy that it has not been denied,” said Dinanath’s uncle, Shankar Chowdhury. “My brother (the boy’s father) died this January, waiting for justice. He had become depressed after his son’s death. He would have been happiest this day.”

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