Malad man says laboratory labelled him HIV+ for cash
By Lata Mishra, Mumbai Mirror | Apr 4, 2014, 01.41 AM IST
A 38-year-old man has filed a complaint with the Maharashtra Medical Council against a city doctor and a pathology lab technician, alleging that they misled him to believe he was HIV+ and promised complete recovery in three months, with 'treatment' that would cost Rs 1 lakh.
Joel Chettiar, employee of a property consultancy, has also filed a police complaint against the two, noting that the lab's doctored report turned his world upside down and that at one point he had contemplated suicide.
Chettiar was advised a routine blood investigation, including HIV screening, by a local doctor whom he had consulted for falling ill frequently and losing weight. On March 20, Chettiar submitted his blood sample at The Pacific Lab located in Malad (West). On March 23, he had the bombshell in his hand - a report saying he was HIV+.
That evening, Chettiar had a big fight with his wife, who threatened to walk out on him. "I was broken. I wanted to end my life, but my wife stopped me," Chettiar, the father of an eight-year-old boy told Mumbai Mirror on Thursday.
The next day, Chettiar's wife met Pacific Lab technician and officer in-charge Rajendra Mehra. Chettiar's complaint says Mehra recommended a doctor who he claimed had expertise in treating HIV patients. The complaint adds that Mehra said that the treatment would cost Rs 1 lakh and promised that Chettiar would recover fully in three months.
Since it was impossible for him to raise Rs 1 lakh, Chettiar decided to seek help from a family friend, who advised him to get a fresh test done at a government lab.
On March 24, Chettiar did an HIV antibody test at Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS), a recognised government centre, and another test at Sunflower Laboratory at Malad. Results of both tests revealed he did not have HIV infection.
"I can't describe the sense of relief I felt. But I was angry too. Pacific Lab's greed or incompetence had almost destroyed my life," he said.
On April 1, Chettiar lodged a complaint against the lab at the Charkop police station and filed another with the Maharashtra Medical Council. Both complaints named Mehra and Dr Pravin Shinde, MD Path, who had signed Chettiar's report.
When Mumbai Mirror contacted Mehra, he said: "Such error is not possible. We will have to check whether our technician collected the wrong blood sample."
Mehra denied he recommended any doctor to Chettiar's wife or demanded Rs 1 lakh for treatment. "It's a false allegation. I am a technician and not a doctor. How can I ask for money for treatment?"
Dr Shinde, who is a visiting consultant at the lab, said: "The report has my signature which means I have seen it. Such error is impossible, but I will inquire into the matter."
Additional Project Director, MDACS, Dr Balkrishna B Adsul, said the serum HIV antibody is standard procedure and a reliable test. "It's rare that the test can give two different results in such a short duration, especially in cases where antibodies are detected."
IMA PROMISES ACTION AGAINST ERRANT LABS
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Thursday said a circular has been issued to all 197 of its branches across the state, instructing doctors to refrain from associating themselves with pathology and diagnostic laboratories not run by qualified pathologists. The circular also warned of action against all those found endorsing such laboratories.
According to an estimate by the Maharashtra Association of Practicing Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM), there are approximately 6,000 illegal pathological laboratories in the state, against whom the government is yet to take action.
"We have made it very clear that action will be taken against any doctor found endorsing any pathological laboratory without holding a specialist's degree in pathology," said Dr Dilip Sarda, state president, IMA. According to MAPPM president Sandeep Yadav, the association has filed FIRs against 16 labs run by unqualified technicians and four doctors who lent their name to several labs.
Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) member, Dr Suhas Pingale, said, "As per the Medical Council of India, reports of any kind to patients without authentication by a pathologist registered with MMC. If the guidelines are violated, the laboratory's licence will be cancelled."