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Necessity Of Providing Legal Protection To Doctors In India

Doctors play a pivotal role in society by providing vital healthcare support to the public. Still, they are confronted with various legal risks in their practice. The doctors and other medical professionals have been assured of legal protection by the Indian legal system so that they can supply quality healthcare in the absence of any kind of fear of legal consequences or harassment.

In India, medical professionals are provided legal protection under various laws, guidelines and regulations. The chief legal framework governing medical practice in India is the Indian Medical Council Act, of 1956. The above Act established the Medical Council of India (MCI), which manages the practice of medicine and medical education in the country.

There are several laws apart from the Indian Medical Council Act, of 1956, that provide legal protection to doctors in India.

Some of these laws include:
  1. The Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regularization Act), 2010:
    It controls the working and the registration of clinical establishments which comprises hospitals, nursing homes etc. It is also concerned with providing directives regarding patient safety, and the quality of healthcare and even lays down penalties for disobedience.
  2. Consumer Protection Act, 2019:
    It protects the consumer from any unfair trade practices and the sale of flawed goods and services. Further, it provides compensation to the aggrieved individual in case of any harm caused as a result of the use of any goods or services.
  3. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940:
    It controls the sale, manufacture and distribution of drugs and cosmetics in India. In addition, it lays down the guidelines for the standards of quality, efficacy and safety of drugs and even prescribed punishment for any act inconsistent with its provisions.
  4. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971:
    It provides for the termination of medical pregnancy under certain circumstances. This Act is very crucial concerning the protection of doctors as it gives legal protection to the doctors who carry out abortions in conformity with this act.

Doctors in India face numerous challenges when it comes to legal objections. These challenges can be daunting and overwhelming, but they must be overcome to ensure the best care for patients. Doctors must be equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to navigate the legal system and handle any objections that may arise.

With the proper support and training, doctors can confidently provide top-quality care to their patients while also protecting themselves legally. Although these challenges can be difficult, they are a necessary part of the healthcare system in India and must be addressed to provide the best possible care to patients.

Despite various safeguards and legal protection provided to the doctors, they still face numerous legal objections and warnings in the practice.
These legal objections include:
  1. Medical Negligence:
    It is the improper treatment of the patient by the doctor. The doctors are charged with medical negligence for several reasons which may include wrong diagnosis, delay in diagnosis, error in surgery, unnecessary surgery, errors in the administration of anaesthesia, childbirth and labour malpractice, long-term negligent treatment etc. The negligence of the doctor to provide reasonable care to the patients give rise to medical negligence.
  2. Criminal Charges:
    The doctors can also face criminal charges for medical negligence, fraud, or other offences. Medical practitioners can be charged under sections 304-A, 337 and section 338 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Thus, they can be punished with imprisonment for a term, with a fine, or both.
  3. Harassment and Violence:
    Medical practitioners and doctors also face the risk of harassment and violence from patients and their relatives. This would result in physical injury, mental agony and a fall in reputation.

Applicable Case Laws
Various case laws in India give legal protection to doctors. One of the most noteworthy cases is the case of Dr Laxman Balakrishnan Joshi V/s Doctor Trimbak Bapu Godbole[1]. This case observed that there should be a reasonable duty of care shown by the doctor towards their patients. Practical skills must be exercised for the treatment of the patient. The court held that failure to exercise reasonable skill and care in the treatment of the patient would attract criminal liability under medical negligence.

In the case of Indian Medical Association V/s V.P. Shantha (1996)[2], it was held by the Supreme Court of India that doctors cannot be held liable for medical negligence in cases where they have exercised due care, applied reasonable skill and followed accepted medical practice for treating their patients. The doctors cannot be held liable in this regard unless it is proved that they have deviated from the standard procedure of treatment.

Legal protection must be provided to the doctors and medical practitioners who are practising in India. This issue must be addressed appropriately. It is critical to ensure that doctors can provide medical treatment to patients without any fear of violence, harassment or any legal punishment. Several laws, regulations and guidelines provide legal protection to doctors in India.

On the contrary, doctors still face legal objections and risks in their practice such as criminal charges, medical negligence, penal provisions and harassment. The doctors must be conscious of their rights and duties to provide the best possible medical care to the patients while safeguarding themselves from legal repercussions.

  1. 1969 AIR 128, 1969 SCR (1) 206
  2. 1996 AIR 550, 1995 SCC (6) 651

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