24 September 2021
On 13 April, a meeting of the Court of Appeal was held in the case of compensation for moral damage for the mother of a woman who died in 2017 in the Yoshkar-Ola Perinatal Center after childbirth due to too much blood loss. The investigation found that the death could have been avoided if the obstetrician had been more attentive to the patient. The mother of the deceased asked to compensate her for moral damage in the amount of 1.5 million rubles, the court of first instance awarded 400 thousand, and the court of appeal reduced it to 100 thousand, without satisfying the claim of either party. Details are in the review.
How much a medical error can cost
According to the BBC Russian Service, the number of criminal cases against doctors has increased fivefold in recent years (data from 2018). Patients more often make accusations against doctors and sue them. In cases where the court sides with the patient, compensation for moral damage can amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of rubles. In Chita, the mother of a child who died after childbirth was awarded 500 thousand. There, the court also collected 1.5 million from the Perinatal center for the fact that the child was born with a disability.
The record payment of moral damage due to medical errors in Russia was appointed in St. Petersburg in 2015 – 15 million rubles.
The essence of the case
The applicant’s daughter was admitted to the department of pregnancy pathology of the Mari El Perinatal Center on 17 March 2017 with indications for a caesarean section. The obstetrician conducted it at 9 am on 31 March, a boy and a girl were born to a woman. At 9:15, an examination revealed that she was bleeding profusely.
Medical recommendations prescribe to examine the patient after a cesarean section every half hour. Bleeding is measured in two ways, one of which is by eye. In this case, 30% should be added to the volume of blood loss visually determined by the doctor.
The obstetrician did not examine the woman from 10:00 to 11:50, and when assessing the volume of blood loss, he did not add 30% to his visual assessment. This led to the wrong prescription of treatment. Instead of surgical intervention, the doctor prescribed conservative treatment with medications.
It was not possible to stop the bleeding. In the period from 16:00 to 16:50, the patient underwent surgery, after which she fell into a coma. At the same time, the doctor did not receive her informed consent, and after the woman died the next morning, he forged her signature on the consent form.
On 10 May 2017, a criminal case was opened under the articles “Causing death by negligence” and “Forgery of documents”.
The investigation required 3 forensic examinations, which were carried out for a long time. As a result, the statute of limitations on bringing a doctor to criminal responsibility has expired (2 years from the moment of the act or inaction).
In August 2019, at the request of the doctor, the criminal case under both articles was terminated.
The Court of First Instance
The mother of the deceased L. filed a civil lawsuit against the Perinatal Center for compensation for moral damage in the amount of 1.5 million rubles. After the death of her only daughter, she experienced severe suffering, lost the meaning of life, and her physical health deteriorated. The psychologist of the center “Trust” found that the woman was in a state of constant psychological discomfort and stress.
The Yoshkar-Ola City Court appointed compensation for moral damage in the amount of 400 thousand rubles. The decision states that defects in the provision of medical care in the postpartum period aggravated postoperative complications and should be considered as one of the causes that led to a fatal outcome. Simply put, if the doctor had acted correctly, she might have survived, or she might not have survived.
According to the law, in claims for moral harm, the presumption of guilt applies to the person who caused the harm – the doctor has the burden of proving his innocence. The plaintiff must prove the fact of causing harm and that the defendant is the causer of harm or the person obliged to compensate for the harm.
The court decided that the doctor’s actions were causally related to the patient’s death, although they were not the only reason.
In addition to 400 thousand, the court ordered the Perinatal Center to pay for the funeral in the amount of less than 70 thousand.
The interests of the mother are represented by the chairwoman of NGO “Man and Law” Irina Protasova and the lawyer of the organization Vladimir Protasov.
Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant agreed with the court’s decision. The plaintiff filed an appeal, demanding to satisfy the claim in full, the defendant – with the requirement to deny the claim.
The appeal process took place on 13 April 2021. The court did not satisfy the claim of any of the parties and made an interim decision – to compensate for moral damage, but in a smaller amount. Thus, the court estimated the suffering of the relatives of the deceased at only 100 thousand rubles.
“I lost my only daughter due to the negligence of doctors,” L. said. “I still can’t accept the fact that she won’t call and come to visit me, won’t be interested in my health and affairs. It’s been 4 years, and I still can’t find justice. Why do the courts decide that I have not endured suffering, moral and physical, and I continue to endure them?”
Co-chairman of NGO “Man and Law” Sergei Poduzov:
– The category of cases related to the restoration of violated rights that occurred due to poor – quality medical care is always complex. But the complexity of the case does not mean a low assessment of the suffering in the event of a person’s death. 100 thousand rubles is an extremely low amount of compensation for moral suffering. And 400 thousand assigned by the Yoshkar-Ola City Court was also a low amount. For example, on 25 February 2019, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issued a ruling that overturned the appeal decision of the Khanty-Mansiysk Court. Then the applicant, who demanded compensation for moral damage in the amount of 5 million rubles in connection with the death of her husband in a medical institution, had to receive 750 thousand by the decision of the court of first instance. The Court of Appeal overturned this decision, and the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal. As a result, the victim received compensation of 750 thousand.
Employees of the organization “Man and Law” will prepare a complaint against the appeal decision and will seek to restore the violated rights of the applicant.