KATHMANDU, Jan 14: Diksha Kandel couldn't hold back her tears when she read the story of Rihan, Ekta and Sanjeev a year ago. The Neupane family was struggling hard to keep pace with life as their only son Rihan was 'dying before their eyes'; and they knew the story could be different if the hospital they chose for the birth of their child had handled things carefully. Just a fresher in her field, advocate Diksha felt like joining the battle the family was fighting for justice. Sanjeev and Ekta, whose baby was normal when born in June 2018 but left with irreparable damages in the course of his treatment over the time, had approached Nepal Medical Council as they wanted due action against all doctors involved and 'arrogant' administration, which would however charge hefty money to any patient.
Diksha heartily followed all the newspaper outlets and other sources of information about Rihan. Their law firm, established by her and other two friends, had dealt exclusively with corporate and business issues alone till then. Rihan's case intrigued them. After making some research, they found out that negligence or controversies in the medical sector hardly reach the court in Nepal. Most of the time, settlements between victims and doctors or hospitals are made outside the court. "But here, the parents had sought real justice. This moved us," said Diksha. "We then got eager to fight for Rihan."
Diksha had to go through her facebook friends to get connected to Sanjeev for the first time. Sanjeev was in search of a reliable advocate who could understand the spirit of the case. Some senior lawyers were considered, but things didn't go ahead. Some others hesitated to stand against a giant authority' – Grande International Hospital.
"Many thought that they would lose the case just by hearing the name of the hospital. As a person so naïve about law and the country’s judicial system, I really had a hard time understanding things and finding a suitable person to take up the case," said Sanjeev, who even briefly thought of becoming a lawyer himself. After all, he had mugged up volumes of books about neonatal care, pneumonia, effects of high dose paracetamol (Rihan was injected 66 ml instead of prescribed 4.5 ml), hydrocephalus, shunt – among other medical terminologies and their implications in just a few months. "This thought of preparing myself to fight the case did toss on my mind. But then it wasn't easy," he recalled his struggle for justice.
Dikshya and two other lawyers with the firm, Anushka Bhattarai and Pratistha Bhandari--all of them in their mid-20s-- were on the other hand, taking the matter closer to their heart in the hope of making an entry also as a 'medical malpractice lawyer' just for Rihan, for now. They made a thorough study of what had happened, including the reports of the medical council.
The council had clearly held the doctors responsible for the sorry health of Rihan, who is two and half years old now. Without his parents' assistance, the boy cannot move a bit. He doesn't respond to sounds or light. 'He's like a doll' that does eat and excrete. But for Ekta and Sanjeev, he's a source of inspiration, love and perseverance. And so, for many, who have connected themselves to him through a series of stories covered by the media.
"This case is not ordinary. The battle Rihan is fighting for survival is for some meaning, his parents feel it and we all agree with it," noted Anushka. "Initially, Diksha was following it, then we all got into it, yesterday there was the first hearing of the case after almost one year of filing the case," she added, while talking to Republica on Wednesday.
Also according to Pratistha, Rihan's case is special in several terms. The precedence it will set will contribute to bettering the medical practices. "In our place, medical errors are taken so lightly unlike in other nations. I think such steps, where you drag doctors, and hospitals to the court, will help make the medical practitioners more responsible," she added.
After a few rounds of talks with Sanjeev, the three lawyers had reached the high court in Patan to take the case forward. The defendant party has filed the case against both the Grande Hospital/doctors as well as the medical council on different grounds. They have demanded withdrawing the medical licenses of nine doctors and holding the council accountable for not taking due actions against the professionals and the administration. Similarly, Rs 25 million has been claimed as compensation from the hospital.