HC upholds Doctor’s Conviction in Patient’s death 40 years ago, enhances fine

The Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction of a doctor in connection with the death of a patient 40 years ago but refused to direct him to undergo the 10-day sentence imposed on him considering his age.

A single bench of Justice Bharati Dangre, however, enhanced the fine imposed by the magistrate’s court on Dr Anil Pinto from Rs 5000 to Rs 5 lakh, of which Rs 4.90 lakh will have to be paid to the victim’s kin.

The HC passed the judgment on February 9 on the applications filed by the dependents of the victim and the state government seeking imposition of the sentence of imprisonment on the accused and enhancement of the fine amount.

As per the case, Prakash (30) had, in February 1984, visited Pinto’s clinic to undergo a procedure for his sweaty palms. However, during the procedure, Pinto cut a nerve on the victim’s hand, which caused spasm in a vital artery.

Prakash, who was transferred to the civic run KEM hospital after 12 hours, died three days later.

A magistrate’s court, in October 1994, held Pinto guilty of negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide under section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to 10-day simple imprisonment.

The magistrate’s court also imposed a fine of Rs 5000 on Pinto, of which Rs 4900 was to be paid to the victim’s family.

Justice Dangre concurred with the lower court’s findings that the wait and watch policy adopted by Pinto after the patient suffered from spasm of a vital artery amounted to negligence.

The HC also said, at the most, what can be attributed to Pinto is an act of negligence in not taking immediate steps to deal with the situation.

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“Not acting with promptness and expediency is what goes against him. As an expert surgeon and a medical professional, it was expected of him to act promptly to tackle the damage to the artery. The long wait for more than 12 hours definitely caused complications,” HC said.

While error of judgment on part of a professional may not amount to negligence per se but when an expert surgeon leaves the patient waiting with a spasm of a vital artery then this amounts to negligence, it observed.

Refusing to direct Pinto to undergo the 10-day imprisonment, the HC noted that the doctor, in his 70s now, was suffering from cancer as well as age-related ailments.

“Given the status of his health and life, it would be highly unreasonable and unjust if a septuagenarian with this medical condition is sent to jail to undergo sentence,” the HC said.

The HC said it deems it fit to enhance the fine imposed on Pinto to Rs 5 lakh, of which Rs 4.90 lakh will be paid to the dependents of the victim.

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