New Delhi :  The Indian Medical Association, a private body body of some 240,000 lakh practising doctors has called for a cap on compensation to be awarded in cases of medical negligence while joining the review petition of Kolkata’’s AMRI Hospitals against the Supreme Court awarding a hefty damages of over Rs 11 crore to NRI physician Kunal Saha for his wife’s death from medical negligence.

The Supreme Court had awarded Saha Rs 6.08 crore as compensation for Anuradha Saha’s death in 1998 from medical negligence by doctors at AMRI Hospitals and imposed an additional Rs 5.47 crore as interest. It had computed the compensation factoring the earnings of Anuradha to be $40,000 per year, adding 30 per cent to cover future pay rises, deducting one-third of this sum as her personal expenditure, and multiplying it by 30, the presumed number of earning years she had left.

The IMA joined the review petition filed by AMRI Hospitals questioning the quantum of compensation, pointing out that the medical community is worried that it can become a “trendsetter.” Its secretary-general Narendra Saini said the unjustified compensation could financially hurt patients across the country as hospitals will have to charge them extra to create a fund for the increasing trend of court cases against the negligence.

He said doctors may also pass on the costs of insurance premiums against the risk of negligence liability to patients, increasing the cost of health care.

The threat of large compensations may push doctors into ordering unnecessary diagnostic tests, delaying medical decisions even in emergency situations, said IMA president Jitendra Patel.

Three in four hospitals across India are small nursing homes run by a single doctor or a small group of doctors, IMA officials said. “These small nursing homes make up the backbone of hospital-based care in India, and such huge compensations will force them to shut down,” Saini said.

Saha, who has already received Rupees four crore from AMRI Hospitals, said he was not surprised by the IMA’s position. “They want caps on compensation amounts.Are there caps on the amounts doctors and hospitals charge their patients? Many families in India have been destroyed by the fees charged by hospitals,” he asserted.

The IMA claimed that several US states have imposed caps lower than Rs 11 crore on compensation for medical negligence.

A check on the Net shows that the medical malpractice cases in the US have often involved comparable amounts.

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