the boy was kept in the ICU under intensive paediatric care till he died there on October 26, his ninth birthday

By Live Dr - Fri Nov 07, 12:10 pm

New Delhi, November 6: In ’05, 8-yr-old died of internal burns and infection after a ‘rare’ fire in a laser machine, treating a tumour in his larynx, burnt his airway; HC finds hospital negligent

The death of an eight-year-old boy due to an “accidental” laser spark during a surgery at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital has left the company that runs the country’s leading healthcare centre facing criminal action. Charges made out against the Indraprastha Medical Corporation Limited are “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” and “causing death by negligence”.

Aditya Pal died of internal burns and infection in October 2005, 23 days after a “rare” fire in a laser machine that was used to treat a recurrent tumour in his larynx (voice box) burnt his entire airway. After the surgery on October 3, the boy was kept in the ICU under intensive paediatric care till he died there on October 26, his ninth birthday, said his maternal grandfather Tej Singh, who is fighting the case against the hospital.

It was Aditya’s fifth visit to the hospital where he had been undergoing treatment since November 2004 for ‘recurrent laryngeal papillomatosis’.

The postmortem conducted the very next day by a specialist board of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had found it a “case of gross criminal negligence, and the burn injuries that were the primary cause of death were unwarranted and speak of failure of taking required precautions, care and skill in adopted procedure”.

In a recent order, the Delhi High Court agreed with the postmortem report and refused to quash a metropolitan magistrate’s direction issued in March 2007 to the Sarita Vihar police to investigate the hospital authorities and the doctors concerned under Sections 304 Part II and 304 A of the Indian Penal Code.

The boy’s family named the company running the hospital, its managing director, medical superintendent Ritu Rawat and the ENT consultant who had conducted the laser surgery on October 3, as accused in the complaint.

Rawat and the ENT consultant had moved the HC, seeking to quash the criminal proceedings.

The punishment under Section 304 Part II is imprisonment up to 10 years, but under Section 304 A it is a maximum of two years in jail.

“Aditya’s father had died of kidney failure in February 2005, but my daughter continued to stay with her in-laws in Meerut. Whenever it was time for Aditya’s treatment, I would pick them up from Meerut and later drop them back,” recalls Tej Singh, a resident of Loni.

The hospital authorities defended in the court that the postmortem report was “preliminary” in nature, and brought the judge’s attention to the November 2005 findings of an AIIMS medical board that had inspected the same laser machine and found it “working normally”.

Appearing for the hospital, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra argued that the Delhi Medical Council, on inquiry in 2006, had already given his client a clean chit and absolved the hospital of any negligence.

The council’s inquiry report termed the laser spark that claimed the boy’s life as “rare, and known to occur with the incidence of 0.5 to 1.5 per cent in the USA”.

Dismissing Luthra’s pleas, the Bench threw its weight behind the postmortem report.

It said the board that conducted the postmortem “had the body of the deceased who is alleged to have died on account of medical negligence with them while the other boards did not have the advantage of examining the body”.

Besides, the court observed that the inspection of the laser machine was done “considerably after the incident”, rendering the exercise far less conclusive.

The Apollo management, meanwhile, said it regretted the unfortunate incident, calling it “rare but not a case of medical negligence”.

“We have extended full cooperation to the investigating agency and will continue to do so,” their statement read.

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