Unapproved Medical Procedure costs life of 24 children suffering from Thalassemia Major.

Amit Kumar Agarwal & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. W.P. (c) 689 of 2019 | Supreme Court of India | Status: Pending | |

Thalassemia Major is a blood related genetic disorder wherein persons affected would have to get regular blood transfusions as the hemoglobin levels in their body would be negligible. The only curative treatment available for Thalassemia Major is a Bone Marrow Transplant with a 100% good matched HLA, however only 20% children ever find a 100% good match. A curative treatment for persons with less than 100% match is being researched on and is at a clinical trial stage in almost all countries, including the USA, where it was being developed originally. The curative treatment is both physically taxing for the person receiving it and extremely expensive and therefore it is important for the doctors to take special care and even more so because the patients are mostly children.

In the present case Dr. Satyendra Katewa, of Manipal Hospital Jaipur, convinced parents of multiple children that getting a bone marrow transplant with a less than 100% HLA good match (known as Haplo Identical Stem Cell Transplant) was a safe and approved procedure with a 90-95% success rate and that their children most definitely needed it to survive. The parents of these children, who wanted nothing more than their child to have a healthy life, believing every word said by the doctor to be true agreed to the treatment. Accordingly, the children were admitted at Soni Manipal Hospital (now Manipal Hospital) for the said treatment. However, over time, the expense of the treatment started growing manifolds and the parents who found themselves in a compromised and vulnerable position kept giving in and spent somewhere between 50 Lacs to 1 Crore each. However, 24 children lost their lives during or soon after the transplant. Once the parents realized that it was not just their children who had fallen victim to the ill motives of this doctor, they filed complaints with the NHRC, Rajasthan Medical Council, Medical Council of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Amongst them 4 parents have lodged FIRs against Dr. Satyendra Katewa and the Hospital.

The parents started making complaints but the authorities have not taken any substantial action. The police has failed to arrest Dr. Satyendra Katewa even though an FIR under Section 302 of IPC and 2 FIRs under Section 304 of IPC were registered against him in 2018.

Although we often find the police and government authorities slacking in timely action, it came to us as utter shock that the death of 24 children couldn’t move them. They have not just failed to arrest the doctor even after registration of FIRs, but have also failed to initiate civil proceedings against the Hospital and Dr. Katewa.

We are representing the parents/families of the children in the criminal proceedings before the Jaipur High Court and its extremely worrisome that the judiciary isn’t paying heed either. The Court has stayed criminal investigation on procedural grounds accepting the entire incident as medical negligence. Even though the Supreme Court has laid down guidelines for investigation into criminal negligence by doctors, a judge has to look at the facts before giving up on a case as serious as this because they feel there is nothing they can do.

At present alongside representing the families before the High Court in the 0on going criminal proceedings, we have approached the Supreme Court with the following reliefs:

A.   For directions injuncting all clinical trials relating to Haploidentical Stem Cell Transplants in the country until efficacy of the said Heplo Stem Cell Transplant is proven and established worldwide on Thalassemia.

B.   For an order directing the CBI to take over the investigation and prosecution in respect of FIR 0325/2018, FIR 0326/2018 FIR 0456/2018 Registered at Vidhyadhar Nagar PS, Jaipur and to register further FIRs in respect of the complaints of the remaining petitioners .

C.   For orders directing the Medical Council of India to take over the enquiries in respect of the complaints of misconduct of the respondents.