Indian News

Delhi govt ordered to pay Rs 3 lakh to 2-year-old who lost vision after premature birth

Source: , Posted On:   25 March 2023


The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi government to give Rs 3 lakh as ex gratia reimbursement of medical expenses to a two-year-old boy who became blind allegedly due to medical negligence at the Guru Gobind Singh Hospital.

A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba Singh in its March 21 order took a “compassionate and empathetic” view of the matter and said, “As also the fact that the petitioner had moved from one hospital to another in order to obtain the requisite treatment for the newly born child, Rs 3 lakh is awarded as ex gratia costs/reimbursement of medical expenses to the petitioner. The petitioner is, however, free to avail of his remedies, if any, in accordance with law”.

The court, which said the child had become blind because of “various unfortunate circumstances”, made it clear that the direction for reimbursement “shall not be construed as an opinion” on the conduct of the hospital or the doctor concerned. “The GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) shall release the amount within a period of six weeks from today,” the court said disposing of the plea.

The boy was born prematurely on June 28, 2020, in the 29th week of gestation of the mother, at the Delhi hospital. The minor’s case was that he became totally blind due to medical negligence at the hospital, as a retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) screening which was to be conducted within four weeks of the child’s birth was not conducted in the required time frame.

The court noted that the doctor who examined the child, a senior resident at the department of ophthalmology, had submitted that the department was informed of the baby’s condition only on July 27, 2020. He said that immediately after the information was received, “the ophthalmology department took all the necessary steps to conduct the dilation”. The doctor said the dilation could be conducted only on July 29, 2020 as the baby was premature.

“On the date when the test was conducted i.e., 29th July, 2020, it was noticed that the vessels were tortuous in both eyes and immediately the reference was made to the Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, for detailed evaluation and ROP screening,” the doctor said, adding that the department had taken the requisite steps after being informed of the child’s condition.

In the plea filed through his father, the minor sought compensation of Rs 11 crore for causing the loss of vision and the medical expenses incurred in different hospitals. Additionally, Rs 1 crore was sought towards the mental harassment and physical and mental agony he had suffered.

“After perusing the record, at this stage, the court is unable to go into the facts in detail and pin-point the blame to any particular individual or organisation. The child was a premature baby, had several birth-related complications and thereafter contracted pneumonia. In the midst of this, the ophthalmic department has conducted the requisite tests and taken the necessary steps. In view of various complications, the child could also not be discharged early,” the court noted, adding that the matter happened during the pandemic.

The court also referred to Supreme Court judgments and said the apex court had cautioned about setting the law in motion against medical professionals, which should be done “cautiously and only when there are reasonably sure grounds for such action”.

The court noted that the ophthalmic department of the Guru Gobind Singh Hospital had referred the case to the Dr Rajendra Prasad Ophthalmic Centre at AIIMS on July 28, 2020, itself but the “parents took the child to AIIMS only in the first week of September”.

Taking into account the facts as well as the submissions made by the senior resident and the records, the court observed that “the finding of medical negligence cannot be given by this court at this stage and the same may require a proper assessment on a factual basis, which this court is not to undertake in a writ petition”.