Bad precedent

Bad precedent A RECENT Consumer Court verdict dismissing a compensation claim by a woman who was infected with the HIV virus following blood transfusion at the Wanless hospital in Miraj in Maharashtra may hold grave consequences for patients, fear activists. Subsequently, a child the woman gave birth to also carried the AIDS virus. Activists apprehend that the court's rejection of compensation on the grounds that the woman was treated free of charge could set a precedent that charitable hospitals might exploit.

Sunita Haganwar was admitted to the hospital in June 1990 for a heart operation. During the operation, 3 units of blood which had been tested for the HIV virus were administered. Another unit of blood that was required was donated by Haganwar's husband. It was later established that this last unit was apparently not tested for the virus.

However, the hospital contended in the court that the husband had been tested for the virus and found to be negative before the blood was administered to his wife.

The hospital's lawyer, Dhananjay Chandrachud, also argued that the hospital was not responsible for the child getting infected as the doctors had already warned Haganwar of this likelihood if she conceived. The hospital's offer of free medical treatment to the victims and suitable employment to the husband was turned down by the family which pressed for a Rs 10 lakh suit.

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