A case of gross medical negligence that led to the death of a young lawyer suffering from dengue in 2016 recently prompted the Allahabad High Court to issue various directions to curb the spread of vector-borne diseases in Uttar Pradesh.
Justices Pradeep Kumar Singh Baghel and Piyush Agrawal passed the order after taking note of the state government's failure take preventive steps to stop the spread of the disease. As noted in the order,
"Regard being made to the fact that vector borne diseases are not contagious diseases but their outbreak shows that sufficient preventive measures have not been taken by the concerned authorities."
The High Court also directed the payment of Rs. 25 lakh for the negligence found on the part of SRN Medical College, where the deceased lawyer was admitted.
The order was passed in a PIL registered on the basis of a letter sent to the High Court by Advocate BP Mishra, whose son, also a lawyer, succumbed to dengue. The 2016 letter had pointed out the casual approach taken by the state functionaries towards addressing the menace of dengue fever.
In that year, the Court had ordered an inquiry into the matter, observing that,
"Once the said epedimic is there and a young practising lawyer has already lost his life then the situation detailed out by his father in the letter addressed certainly requires investigation with regard to insensitivity of the doctors at Allahabad and other places."
In the 2016 order, the Court also directed the respondents to furnish data regarding the strategies undertaken to prevent and control dengue, the medical facilities provided, and the number of cases recorded, among other details.
The veracity of the affidavit filed by the Principal Health Secretary of the State in response to the order was disputed by the petitioner as false and grossly misleading, with particular reference to manner in which his son, Piyush Mishra, was treated.
Piyush, who had a history of fever, headache and altered mental sensorium, was admitted in SRN Medical College. However, contrary to the normal medical approach in such cases, the patient was not referred to the neurology department, nor were any radiological studies like CT scan or MRI conducted. The Court was informed that the doctor in charge concluded that the patient had viral fever.
When the condition of the patient became critical, he was shifted to Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute in Lucknow, where he passed away. The cause of death was identified as “dengue shock syndrome ARDS."
The Court, in turn, found that the medical records showed clear negligence on the part of the hospital in treating the patient's dengue conditions. As stated in the order,
"...it is clear that without any proper diagnosis the treatment of the deceased was undertaken. From the record, we find that the patient was not treated for dengue fever. In our opinion, from the affidavits mentioned above, we are satisfied that death of Piyush Mishra was caused due to gross medical negligence on the part of the doctors of S.R.N. Medical College as the patient was not provided any treatment for dengue...
It is evident that Piyush Mishra, the patient, was suffering from dengue but in the S.R.N. Medical College, he was diagnosed viral fever and was prescribed 'broad spectrum antibiotics' in dengue fever."
In view of these findings, the Court directed that an amount of 25 lakh be paid as compensation by the state government to the petitioner.
The Court went on to to take critical note of the high number of dengue cases reported in Allahabad this year.
"This figure itself indicates that no effective measure has been taken by the State functionaries to prevent the dengue in district Allahabad. During 07 days of this month alone more than 180 cases of dengue have been reported. This figure also indicates that various measures taken by the State Government, which has been mentioned in the affidavit filed by Principal Secretary, has not been implemented effectively, in spite of the necessary funds released by the State Government...
... Apart from the counter affidavit filed by Principal Secretary no other material has been brought on record to indicate any preventive measures taken by the State Government to prevent 'Dengue fever' in the State. The figure furnished to the Court in Allahabad district itself shows that in last three years, the number of patients suffering from the Dengue is rising on alarming rate. Only upto the month of November more than 500 cases of Dengue have been reported."
Therefore, Court also passed the following directions in order to curb the existing problem dengue and other vector borne diseases i.e.
Any negligence in complying with these directives would be viewed seriously and strict action would taken against the wrong doers, the Court forewarned.
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