Observing that for a doctor's conviction, a very high degree of negligence is required, the Bombay high court recently upheld the acquittal of a surgeon, a nurse and an anaesthesiologist, who were accused of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The trio was booked by the Kolhapur police in 2001 after a 14-year-old girl died after a tonsillectomy.
A single-judge bench of Justice Kalapathi Shriram was petitioned by the Kolhapur police against the orders of the trial court acquitting the trio.
Having considered the facts of the case and the material on record, Justice Shriram said, "No doubt in the present case, the deceased was only 14 years of age and her parents have lost their child."
"However, to convict the doctors, the prosecution has to come out with a case of high degree of negligence on the part of the doctor. Mere lack of proper care or precaution or attention or inadvertence may create civil liability but not a criminal liability," the judge held.
According to the girl's parents, the girl died within hours of her surgery, which was performed by the trio. They alleged negligence on part of the three medical professionals and claimed that their child was not looked after properly by these doctors.
The parents even relied upon the testimony of two other doctors, who conducted the autopsy on their child's body. The two doctors had concluded that the child may have died due to hemorrhagic shock or due to laryngeal spasm.
However, the trial court noted the part of their testimony, wherein they specifically stated that there is "every possibility of profuse bleeding if the patient may cough while coming out of anaesthesia before cough reflex is fully established, post-tonsillectomy surgery. The trial court had passed acquittal orders based on these statements.
"Therefore, the trial court rightly concluded that these do not indicate any gross negligence or recklessness on the part of accused. I do not find anything palpably wrong, manifestly erroneous or demonstrably unsustainable in the impugned judgment," Justice Shriram said, while upholding the acquittal.