Kommersant on Russia’s largest judicial relief in a medical malpractice case in history
St. Petersburg City Court ordered an unprecedented amount of moral compensation to a woman patient who suffered from medical malpractice. 15 million rubles is what Pavlov St. Petersburg State Medical University will pay to Irina Razina for “wrong tactics of management of birth labor and consequent health harm”. Experts note that the quantity of moral damages claims grows each year, but courts are reluctant to grant the relief sought in full.
Case "Razina against the Medical University" regarding the compensation for the damage to health and moral damage was filed in 2012. Two years before that, at night of 14 September 2010, Irina Razina arrived to the clinic of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the First Medical University. As stated in the medical records, by the time the water broke, the "generic activity was absent." She asked for caesarean section, but doctors "ignored the request." Only at 4:40 PM Dr Yekaterina Gordova decided to do the surgery by way of vacuum extraction, which turned out unsuccessful, and only after that sent Irina to the cesarean section. As a result of severe asphyxia at the moment of birth the child received an organic brain damage. Later Irina Razina underwent several more surgeries that injured her ureter. Afterwards she has been taking care of the child on her own, until he died two years later.
Viktoriya Ishchenko, the patient’s cousel, said that Dr Yekaterina Gordova did not bear any liability for her actions. The woman assessed that her moral damage arising out of the actions of the personnel of the clinic amounted to 15 million rubles. She also received support from Rosgosstrakh Insurance Company, who appeared as a third party in the case.
The clinic’s representatives claimed that serious consequences after birth were caused by the patient’s internal infection. However, the examination carried out by the Ministry of Health showed the mistake that doctors of the clinic made by choosing the wrong treatment tactics: the medical condition for cesarean section was in place already at 10:00. The fact that the doctors refused to do that surgery in time has led to fatal consequences. The court considered the moral and physical suffering of the women to be proven and adequate to the amount claimed, and on 20 June 2014 the relief of moral damages was granted in full. The First Medical University appealed the decision in the City Court. On 19 November the City Court fully fully sustained the judgment in Ms Razina’s favor.
“We hope that this court decision will affect the Russian medical system: that the medical personnel will pay more attention to patients”, - advocate Viktoriya Ishchenko said to Kommersant.
The case has no analogues as to the amount claimed and the relief, although the number of claims for compensation of moral damages is growing annually, said the head of the dispute resolution practice of Rightmark Group Pavel Ilyinykh. According to him, for the year 2012 about 1.5 thousand claims for compensation of moral damages have been considered in Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad Region. In 2013, the number of such claims increased to 1.7 thousand. The claims for recovery of moral damages caused by medical malpractice are however quite rare.
Alexander Saversky, head of the League of the defenders of patients, called the amount of compensation to be unprecedented, explaining that the previous "record" was set in 2008, when a patient was awarded 3.5 million rubles for contracting AIDS during blood transfusion.
"This is a transition onto another level of payments," - says Mr. Saversky. The expert reminds that the judiciary in Russia is not bound by precedents, but observes that other victims still can refer to this judgment in other cases.
"Courts are still reluctant to grant such claims in full, but the amount by which the relief sought is decreased gradually becomes smaller" - says Mr. Ilyinykh. However, he points out that the defendants often evade payment of such sums. "This is due to the low value of goodwill of the players in the market, - explains the expert - in the West a company prefers to save the reputation and, perhaps, to compensate the moral damages voluntarily. Meanwhile, our companies are more interested in the maximum deferral of the payment or even in its total reduction to zero".
By Tatyana Dyatel