Madhya Pradesh High Court Clears Gynaecologist in Sponge Mishap Case

Recently, the Madhya Pradesh High Court made a significant ruling, overturning a criminal case against a doctor accused of inadvertently leaving a sponge inside a woman’s stomach during a childbirth operation in 2016 in the case of Dr. Asharani vs. The State of Madhya Pradesh & Another.

According to Justice Subodh Abhyankar, the lack of a forensic laboratory report made it unfeasible to conclusively determine the doctor’s culpability for the incident.

The Medical Board noted that a sterilized sponge could remain in the stomach without immediate harm but may cause complications later. Lack of the Forensic Science Laboratory report made it impossible to determine the duration the sponge remained. Preeti Nema, admitted for labor pain in December 2016, underwent surgery for her second delivery. A subsequent examination revealed a sponge left in her stomach during the initial operation, causing contamination.

Nema accused Dr. Asharani of leaving cotton in her stomach during childbirth, resulting in the filing of an FIR. The High Court directed the Investigating Officer to adhere to Supreme Court procedures for medical negligence cases. A subsequent Medical Board determined that a sponge was left in the patient’s stomach during delivery but couldn’t ascertain if it was during her first or second pregnancy, the latter performed by Dr. Asharani.

Dr. Asharani sought to dismiss the case, citing the Medical Board’s inability to definitively attribute the sponge to her or the doctor from Nema’s first pregnancy.

The defense argued that the offense under Section 308 of the Indian Penal Code was not established. The Court observed that two medical boards stressed the need for a forensic lab report, which was absent as the sponge was never examined. Without sufficient evidence, the Court questioned the basis of the chargesheet against Dr. Asharani, highlighting the inability to establish negligence without the FSL report.

Therefore, the Court concluded that prosecuting Dr. Asharani would serve no purpose without evidence linking the sponge to her operation on the complainant.

Therefore, the Court dismissed the FIR against the doctor but clarified that the complainant could pursue civil remedies. It noted that the burden of proof in criminal trials, beyond reasonable doubt, is higher than in civil cases, which require a preponderance of probability.

The Court reserved the complainant’s right to seek civil redress, stating that any time spent on the criminal proceedings would not count towards the limitation period for civil action.

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About the Author: Payal Singh