This Article is written by Shruthi Reddy L (a 2nd- year student from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Legislative Law (BBA LLB).)
Achutrao Haribhau Khodwa
State of Maharashtra and Ors
Name of the Court –
Supreme Court of India
Name of the Case –
Achutrao Haribhau Khodwa v State of Maharashtra and Ors.
1996 SCC (2) 634, JT 1996 (2) 624
20th February 1996
Facts of the Case –
On July 10th, 1963 Chandrikabai was admitted to the Civil Hospital, Aurangabad. The woman was the wife of the appellant. She was admitted to get a sterilisation operation. Originally she was admitted to the hospital to deliver her child. The Medical hospital at Aurangabad was attached to the maternity ward. In this case, respondent no.2 was working as a doctor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology and she attended Chandrikabai. The medical officer and the dean of the medical college were respondents 3 and 4 respectively. On the said day above, Chandrikabai delivered a boy, she got herself admitted to undergoing a sterilisation operation after the delivery. On 13th July 1963, the operation was performed by respondent 2. After the operation, she had a high fever and acute pain which was considered normal after the operation. Her condition further deteriorated after which on 15th July 1963 appellant 2 approached respondent 3 and another doctor named Divan who was not directly connected to the gynaecology department. Chandrikabai was examined by him after which he insisted on reopening the performed operation. Her condition became even more serious as it was not acted upon by respondents 2 and 3. To find out the cause behind the worsening of her situation, Dr Divan was called on 19th July 1963. Respondents 2 and 3 accompanied Dr Divan on the operation. As a result of the 2nd operation, Dr Divan found that a towel (mop) was left inside her body while the sterilisation operation was performed on her. Dr Divan then even removed the collection of pus present. The second operation was completed after closing the abdomen. On 24th July 1963, the condition didn’t improve still and she passed away.
Claiming that Chandrikabai was a government teacher and that her earnings supplemented the total income of the family, the appellants claimed the total damages as Rs. 1,75,000. The main issues were –
- If it is proved by the plaintiff that the defendant no.2 was performed the operation in a negligent manner without care and attention?
- If a mop was left and if it was main reason for the death of Chandrikabai?
- Was there mismanagement on part of the hospitals and if necessary and proper steps were taken before operating and if the same was informed to the patient?
If a doctor performs his duties with due care and to the best of his ability, without any negligence then the court will lag behind in allocating the doctor with negligence. The skill of the practitioners doing medicine differ from one doctor to the other. The court can’t hold the doctor liable for negligence even if the patient dies in the end if he has performed it with due care and caution. Torts would be maintainable only if the doctor performs his job carelessly. In the present case, the abstract can be explained by the phrase – Res Ipsa Loquitur which means the facts speak for themselves. Any medical practitioner is expected to perform with knowledge and a reasonable degree of care and skill. Chandrikabai was admitted to the hospital for delivery following a sterilisation operation. The fact that there was the formation of pus clearly indicates the fact there was some foreign material left in the patient’s body which was the mop. In the absence of valid explanations from the respondents in the present circumstances, it can be held that due to the negligence of respondents 2 and 3, Chandrikabai died. The state must be held vicariously for the negligence of the employees. Initially, the judgment by the trial court was reversed by the High Court which was an error. The appeal was allowed later, a decree by the trial court was restored. Therefore the appellants will be held entitled to the costs. The concept of medical negligence can be explained through this case as there was a lack of action which required reasonable skill and care.
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