Dentist ordered to compensate consumer

Negligence by a city dentist left a patient's hand immobile.

On 20 September, the III Additional Bangalore Urban District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ordered a Bangalore based dentist to pay up Rs.One lakh as compensation to a young student who suffered due to deficient service from the dentist’s clinic.

M A Shilpa aged twenty, doing her post graduation course in economics and business, in an evening college in Bangalore, went to the Tarana Dental Clinic in Padmanabhanagar, Bangalore, during the first week of June 2006, complaining of pain in her lower right jaw. Dr Archana Hegde, (B.D.S. Esth. Dent.USA) examined her, filled a cavity in her tooth, and prescribed some medicine. But the pain returned and she again met Dr Hegde on 8 September 2006. She prescribed more medicine but the pain recurred.

As Shilpa’s examinations were approaching she urged the dentist to give her proper medical treatment. A radiograph was taken and then the dentist gave her an injection as a painkiller on her right arm inspite of Shilpa’s mother urging her not to inject her daughter’s right arm.

Hegde convinced Shilpa that everything would be fine. But ten minutes later Shilpa told the doctor that she had lost sensation of her right hand and her fingers had turned inward. She could not even hold the key of the vehicle on which she had come to the clinic. Inspite of being told this, the doctor convinced her that she would be fine within an hour. But an hour later when they approached the doctor again she said Shilpa would be fine within 24 hours.

The following morning at 7 a.m. Shilpa’s mother informed Hegde that Shilpa’s hand was still unable to feel anything and the doctor told her that it would take three days for recovery. She also prescribed more medicines. By now Shilpa’s parents had sensed that something was very wrong and approached Dr H S Suresh, Neurosurgeon at the Manasa Superspeciality Clinic on 20 September 2006. He diagnosed Shilpa’s complaint as Radial Nerve Injury due to an intramuscular injection and he suggested that physiotherapy be started for the patient immediately.

That night Shilpa’s parents told Hegde about the report from Suresh. Still Hegde insisted that nothing was the matter and Shilpa would soon be fine. Thereafter Shilpa was treated by neurologist Dr Umashankar, a consultant at Bhagavan Mahaveer Jain Hospital. He diagnosed her case as one of Radial Nerve Axonopathy and she was advised to use a splint.

Shilpa, who had been leading an independent life now has to depend on her parents even for small tasks. At her college also, she is at the mercy of her classmates and friends. Her parents who are retired are unable to bear the huge medical expenses involved. The neurologist of Bhagavan Mahaveer Jain Hospital also issued a certificate on 8 January 2007 stating that three and a half months later Shilpa had not improved and has lost the use of her right hand.

This has affected her entire educational career and her future due to the negligence on the part of the doctor who treated her initially. Shilpa’s parents contacted Hegde and told her that Shilpa has been suffering from persistent weakness, inability to move her right hand, all due to the injection that Hegde had given her. They urged the doctor to compensate them for the expenses incurred. She assured them that she would pay up the compensation but finally they had to complain to the consumer forum.

In the court, Hegde’s contention was that Shilpa suffered from some kind of disability on her right hand even before she approached her for treatment. Shilpa had visited D G Hospital in 2004 after a fall due to which she had pain and swelling in her right wrist for which she had been given a crepe bandage. But the court ruled that the D G Hospital records itself proved that Shilpa had suffered only a minor injury and this could not be the reason for her present condition. She had even been riding her own vehicle and pursuing her studies independently.

The witness for Shilpa was Umashankar, the consultant neurologist, who in his affidavit stated that he examined her on 26 September 2006 and found after diagnosis that she was suffering from radial nerve palsy due to the injection given to her right hand.

The Consumer Forum President N Srivathsa Kedilaya ruled that since the alleged medical negligence and deficiency of service by the doctor had been established by the complainant, the doctor was liable to compensate Shilpa with a sum of Rs. One lakh rupees along with costs of Rs. 5000. If the doctor does not pay up within thirty days from the date of the order (20 September 2007) she will have to pay interest at 9 per cent per annum from the date of this order till payment. Shilpa’s complaint no. is 300/2007.

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