Nov 22, 2013 New Delhi: Delhi High Court on Friday sought the responses of the Centre, Delhi government and AIIMS on a plea by a rickshaw-puller seeking directions to the hospital to provide free treatment to his seven-year-old son who is suffering from Gaucher’s disease, a genetic disorder. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) building in New Delhi.
Justice VK Jain sought responses by 11 December on the petition which has also raised the question as to whether the government hospital is duty-bound under the Constitution to give free treatment to all patients who cannot afford expensive medicines. While issuing a notice to the authorities, HC observed that “ideally no one should suffer for want of treatment. But we have a population of billions. Tomorrow, there will be a flood of such cases (if this plea is allowed).”
The father of the ailing child has already lost four children who were suffering from the same disease. Gaucher’s disease is a genetic disorder which causes fat to accumulate in cells and certain organs and is characterised by bruising, fatigue, anaemia, low blood platelets and enlargement of the liver and spleen. Some forms of Gaucher’s disease may be treated with enzyme replacement therapy.
The petition, filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal, raises the question, “whether AIIMS being a government hospital is under constitutional obligation to provide free treatment to the patients who cannot afford the same because of heavy cost involved therein or poor patients can be left to the mercy of God if they are not in a position to meet the cost of the treatment and whether the respondents 1 (Centre) and 2 (Delhi government) are under duty to arrange for the continuous and uninterrupted treatment of the patients.”
During the brief proceedings, Delhi government said “we don’t know why AIIMS is charging, they are expected to give free treatment”. The petition alleged that AIIMS’ denial of treatment to the petitioner’s lone surviving son on account of his inability to bear the hefty cost and the action of the Health Ministry and Delhi government in refusing to bear the same is a “failure on part of the respondents in performing their constitutional duty of providing free treatment”.
Petitioner Mohd Sirajuddin’s son is suffering from the deadly Gaucher’s disease Type-I, characterised by high fever and bleeding, the petition states. The child has been consulting AIIMS for treatment and is in a highly-critical state and weighs only 13 kg. The hospital’s department of paediatrics has estimated the cost of his treatment, which is enzyme replacement therapy, to be Rs 4.8 lakh per month. “Unable to bear the hefty cost of treatment, the child has been turned away by the said hospital,” the petition states, seeking directions to the authorities to “provide continuous, uninterrupted treatment free of cost and to bear the expenses of his treatment”.