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Rising cases against doctors

Why Cases Against The Doctors And Medical Establishment Is Rising Day By Day:

Medical field is one of the most important fields in any given country. They are responsible to save people’s lives and uphold their right to live. As we all know, getting into this field requires extensive hard work and dedication, and most importantly, humanity to save other’s lives. Doctors are professionals who have immense duties vested upon them and any negligence from their side can prove to be fatal.

The medical profession as mentioned earlier, is a noble profession. It helps in preserving life, and sometimes, it is only because of the doctor that your life is saved. A patient generally approaches the hospital with a view that the doctor will cure him or save him from the disease he or she has been suffering from. This happens when the doctor has a reputation and based on that reputation, his clients are built up in the market. When we consider the expectations of the patients that are admitted, they are two-fold and have two phases. First is that the doctors and the hospitals provide the medical treatment to the patient with the knowledge that they have and the skills that they possess.

Second is that the doctor or the medical practitioner will not do anything that risks the life of the patient or causes him to die because of the negligence. The doctors owe a duty of care towards the patient in many ways such as making sure there is no harm caused to the patient amidst the treatment procedure, choosing the right method of treatment for the ailment the patient is going through etc.

Now, the law interferes in the profession of medicine only when there is appearance of any medical negligence on the part of the doctors or the institution itself. Medical negligence is not only constituted by the failure of an operation or the side effects of the operation because negligence and especially medical negligence is defined in the sense of the breach of the duty of care, and hence the duty of care not in its literal sense but in its golden sense, that the operation or the surgery is happening because of the doctor himself.

Therefore, it is necessary for the harm to be caused by the doctor himself, for instance, if the doctor gives his patient poison instead of the medicine because they looked alike. So, in such a circumstance, the medical negligence is of the doctor that it was because of whom the patient died, had it happened that the patient himself/herself was in comma and the medicine that the doctor gave was right but it reacted in his body differently and he dies, then the doctor would not have been medically negligent.

The main reason why the cases against doctors and medical institutions are increasing is that the number of hospitals and the facilities are very less compared to the number of patients who go there every day. Moreover, the number of fake cases against them are increasing at an alarming rate day by day, it happens because it is difficult to prove that there was no negligence on the part of the doctors or the medical institution.

Doctors are professionals who are trained to save people’s lives and make sure that their life is not at stake. But sometimes, it so happens that due to medical reasons and patient’s body reaction to certain treatments turn fatal, in such a scenario the doctors cannot be held liable as they were just doing their duty of treating a patient. Negligence cases are filed against them even if they could not reasonably foresee the injury or harm caused to the patient, considering that, it is one of the most important essentials of negligence. In a lot of cases, doctors cannot foresee the reaction of a certain medicine on the patient, which eventually leads to his situation getting worse, in this instance the doctors cannot be held liable.

Kurban Hussein Mohammedali Rangawalla v. State of Maharashtra[1]– In this case, while dealing with Section 304-A of IPC (death caused by negligence) , the statement of law by Sir Lawrence Jenkins in Emperor v. Omkar Rampratap[2], was cited with approval:
To impose criminal liability under Section 304A, Indian Penal Code, it is necessary that the death should have been the direct result of a rash and negligent act of the accused, and that act must be the proximate and efficient cause without the intervention of another’s negligence. It must be the causa causans; it is not enough that it may have been the causa sine qua non.

Thus it becomes important to note that the negligence must be proven and it has to be understood that only when there is a lack of standard of care, such cases can be taken up.

In a recent case of Kusum Sharma v. Batra Hospital[3] few principles were held by the apex court, negligence cannot be attributed to a doctor so long as he performs his duties with reasonable skill and competence. Merely because the doctor chooses one course of action in preference to the other one available, he would not be liable if the course of action chosen by him was acceptable to the medical profession.

In the realm of diagnosis and treatment there is scope for genuine difference of opinion and one professional doctor is clearly not negligent merely because his conclusion differs from that of the other professional doctor. The medical practitioners at times have to be saved from such a class of complainants which use criminal process as a tool for pressurizing the medical professionals/hospitals, particularly private hospitals or clinics for extracting uncalled for compensation. Such malicious proceedings deserve to be discarded against the medical practitioners.

The problem with the present law is that after violence has been committed, the doctor files a police complaint and simultaneously the patient and his representatives file a complaint for criminal negligence. This results in no punishment to the perpetrators and hence no deterrence for next incidence of violence. Having a Central law for prevention of violence against healthcare persons and institutions would also help but not as much as a change in the Indian Penal Code to make such violence a cognizable offence with stringent punishment

The medical professionals are entitled to get protection so long as they perform their duties with reasonable skill and competence and in the interest of the patients. As long as the doctors have performed their duties diligently and exercised an ordinary degree of professional skill and competence, they cannot be held guilty of medical negligence. It is of vital importance that the doctors must be able to perform their professional duty with free mind.

End-Notes:
  1. Kurban Hussein Mohammedali Rangawalla v. State of Maharashtra (1965) 2 SCR 622
  2. Emperor v. Omkar Rampratap(1902) 4 BLR 679
  3. Kusum Sharma v. Batra Hospital (2010) 3 SCC 480

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