NHRC Notice To Odisha For Compensation Over Administration Of Expired Drugs

17 October 2019

Snigdha Chandan Das

Bhubaneswar: Acting tough, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has slapped a show-cause notice to the Odisha government as to why a monetary compensation/relief of Rs 10 lakh be not recommended to be paid to each of the 36 children of Behula village for being administered expired Albendazole liquid (a deworming medicine) by its employees.

The apex rights body which has issued the show cause notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha on 26 September has asked the latter to file its response latest by 22 November.

The NHRC is of the opinion that the human rights of the children have been violated and they are entitled to monetary compensation/relief for which the State of Odisha is vicariously liable to pay for the acts of its employees.

As per the case details, 36 children of Behula village under Garadpur block in Kendrapara district between the age group of one to ten years fell sick after taking de-worming medicine by the local Asha workers and the ANMs in a de-worming camp at Tikanpur School on 5 November 2014. Later it was discovered that the Albendazole liquid (syrup) administered to the children had crossed their expiry date for long.

In this connection, human rights activist Akhand had filed a complaint with the NHRC alleging negligence on part of departmental staff while praying for compensation to the affected children and action against the erring staff.

The rights body on taking cognizance of the complaint had sought an inquiry report from the State government. The government in its report on 03 February 2015 had cited it as negligence of the ANM and ASHA workers monitoring the immunization camp.

However, subsequently, the government on 8 July this year submitted a joint inquiry report to the NHRC that stated that no expired medicines were administered at the session site and none of the children of Behula village of Garadpur block who received Albendazole in the session site were treated in the OPD or IPD at the Patkura CHC; that the alleged medicine of Albendazole with batch no. 24072 with an expiry date of June 2014 were not supplied for the said programme and were supplied on the previous rounds.

The Commission perused the report and observed that instant report was entirely in contradiction of the earlier report dated 03 February 2015.

On perusal of entire facts and comments as well as reports, the Commission did not believe the instant report of the authority, since it seemed to be a concocted story in order to save their medical officers/doctors who are supposed to possess technical knowledge of the medicines as to which medicine should be administered or not and it also rejected the contention that administration of expired medicine may be due to negligence of some concerned ANM and ASHA, since it is the duty of doctors and medical officers that which medicine may be administered to the children or not and whether it is expired medicine or not is within the purview of expert doctors/medical officer.

The Commission also rejected the theory that some miscreant villagers might have mixed the expired Albendazole liquid with the other medicine in order to extort money from ANM or ASHA workers. It is quite reasonable to ask why villagers would mix the expired medicine and from where they got it and why to mix, only to harm their children?

NHRC has observed that looking at the entirety of facts, the doctors and medical officers/staff keeping the storage of said medicines and providing such expired medicines are responsible and liable to be punished adequately and departmental disciplinary action must be initiated against their negligent acts and omissions. The theory and contentions of the report are not believable. It is immaterial that parents of the children after suffering from the administration of medicine did not bring their children for treatment to the OPD or IPD at the Patkura CHC and why should they come to the same place for treatment where their children suffered and shocked.

The apex rights body further observed that it is not disputed that children fell sick and it happened following the administration of Albendazole liquid and they complained of headache, vomiting, abdomen aching and also fever as the complainant pointed out in the complaint.

The Commission arrived at the conclusion that human rights of children of village Behula under Garadapur Block of Odisha’s Kendrapada district have been violated and they are entitled to the monetary compensation/relief for which the State of Odisha is vicariously liable to pay for the acts of its employees.