Medical Negligence

Medical negligence is essentially the misconduct of a doctor or a physician by not providing sufficient care, which results in dereliction of duty and harms the patients who are their consumers. Examples of medical negligence that could lead to legal action: Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis. Misread or ignore unnecessary surgical lab results.  

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Criminal Liability

 

Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code of 1860 states that “anyone who causes the death of a person by a reckless or negligent act which does not constitute culpable homicide shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of two years, or a fine or both. “This means that if a person causes the death of another person because of their negligent or reckless behavior, they will be subject to punishment. If a patient dies due to gross negligence or malicious intent of the doctor, the doctor would be criminally liable. A Doctor will also be vicariously liable for the negligence of his employees or servant.

 

Let’s look into the landmark cases of Medical Negligence:

 

The judgment that clicks our mind whenever we think about medical negligence is none other than the high-profile case in which the highest compensation to date was granted, in the case of Kunal Saha v. AMRI (Advanced Medical Research Institute) which is popularly known as Anuradha Saha case. The case was filed back in 1998 with the alleged medical negligence by 3 doctors of AMRI hospital; Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, Dr. Baidyanath Haldar, and Dr. Balram Prasad as well as AMRI hospital.

The facts of the case, to put it simply, are that there was an allergy to the drugs that Ms. Saha suffered from. When the duo approached the affected hospitals, the three doctors prescribed such a drug which further worsened the woman's condition which led to her death. The Apex Court rendered the final verdict of the case in 2013 and also compensated the victim with 6.08 crore. This particular case has broadened the scope of medical negligence in India and taken it to a whole new level.

In the case of V. Krishna Rao v. Nikhil Super Specialty Hospital 2010, Krishna Rao, an officer of the malaria department filed a complaint against the hospital for negligent conduct in the treatment of his wife. His wife was wrongly treated for typhoid fever instead of malaria fever, due to the wrong medication provided by the hospital. Finally, the verdict was given, and Rao was awarded a compensation of Rs 2 lakhs. In this case, the principle of res Ipsa loquitor was applied, and the compensation was given to the plaintiff.

In a popular case, Achutrao Haribhau khodwa and Ors v. the State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court noticed that in the very nature of the medical profession, skills differ from doctor to doctor, and there is more than 1 admissible course of operation. Therefore, negligence cannot be attributed to a doctor so long as he is performing his duty with due care, caution, and attention. Merely because the doctor chooses one course of action over others, he won’t be liable.

 

Summate

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is health that is a person’s real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”. Patients see God in doctors. Kevin Alan Lee said, “Being in such a profession where sick, ill and sufferers are your customers who look upon you as the almighty, an absolute amount of care is expected.”

Justices Chandramauli K.R. Prasad and V. Gopala Gowda in their decision in the Anuradha Saha case observed that "The patients, irrespective of their social, cultural and economic background, are entitled to be treated with dignity, which not only forms their fundamental right but also their human right, “Hence, it is the duty of doctors to treat their patients with due care and diligence without any malpractices.

 

 

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