Medical negligence is fast becoming a common term that you may have come across on multiple pages of your daily newspaper. But what is medical negligence? And how can we spot cases of malpractice against doctors?
As patients make frequent visits to the hospital, it is important to know your patient rights and understand how to report doctor malpractice for adequate compensation. Hence, raising awareness about medical negligence is of crucial importance in today’s day and age. You and your family deserve.
If you’re on a journey to find your ideal lawyer for doctor malpractice, here are some things you must know – like what is medical negligence and what are patient rights.
What is Medical Negligence?
Owing to the sensitive nature of the issue, there is a general lack of consensus regarding the term “medical negligence”. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in ‘Jacob Mathew vs State of Punjab & ANR (2005)’, judgement has defined medical negligence.
Ratanlal and Dhirajlal (2002) contend that negligence is the breach of a duty resulting from an individual’s omission that, when being guided by a regular code of human affairs, a prudent and reasonable person would ordinarily not make.
Actionable negligence would entail a violation of the “duty of observing ordinary care and skill” due to which injury to a person or property occurs.
Broadly speaking, there are three legal aspects that make up the concept of medical negligence.
A legal obligation to extend due care within the scope of a medical professional’s duty
A breach of that duty
A damage realized as a consequence of the said breach
Medical professionals, in this case, can include doctors, nurses, dentists, surgeons, other hospital staff and so on.
A few medical negligence cases examples include incorrect diagnosis of disease in the presence of sufficient indicators, prescription or medication errors, surgical fallacies resulting in injury or death and so on.
Medical negligence is a sensitive subject matter that is most relevant due to its contestation with the sanctity of doctor-patient relations. People’s firm belief in the novelty of doctor duties and the latter’s novel dedication towards saving patient lives are highly valued in the medical field.
Thus, approaching the issue of medical negligence from an informed lens is important to continue the respectful relationship between doctors and their patients.
Types of Medical Negligence
We can broadly classify medical negligence cases under two categories – civil medical negligence and criminal medical negligence.
Most cases of medical negligence in India are dealt under the category of civil negligence or civil personal injury irrespective of the seriousness of the consequence.
If healthcare professionals are not reasonably careful in treating patients, they are liable to be tried for civil negligence. With medical professionals that are employed in hospitals and other healthcare institutes, the latter authority can be held liable for the actions of the former.
Cases tried under civil negligence are eligible for suitable compensation based on the established breach of doctor duties.
Criminal medical negligence cases are only levied when a doctor’s gross negligence is sufficiently proven, and instances of extreme carelessness are uncovered despite the complete knowledge of all risk factors.
Medical negligence under IPC refers to all the cases that are tried under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and are punishable with imprisonment, a monetary fine or both.
Medical Negligence and the Consumer Protection Act
Cases of medical negligence registered in the consumer forum are tried under the Consumer Protection Act,2019 wherein medical professionals can be held accountable for civil negligence.
The inclusion of medical negligence under the Consumer Protection Act was established when the Supreme Court, in the ‘Indian medical association vs. V. P. Shantha & others’ case, noted that medical services provided by healthcare professionals should be considered as services of any other nature. Thus, if any individual believes that the services rendered by a medical institute/doctor are deficient, he/she may approach the judiciary as per the Consumer Protection Act.
Any person who wishes to register cases of malpractice against doctors can do so under Section 35 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 that ensures civil liabilities if the complaint is registered within 2 years of the incident.
With the amendment in 'Consumer Protection Act, 2019', the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Consumer Courts has been revised. Consequently, nearly all medical matters would be at District commissions.
Medical Negligence Cases 2020
A brief overview of previous medical negligence cases can give us a preliminary idea about cases of malpractice against doctors. However, one must note that the increasing public awareness about patient rights is an instrumental factor in the increased reporting of medical negligence cases.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 135 total deaths resulting from medical negligence in India in the year 2020. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of medical negligence cases with at least 29 people reported dead.
It is unfortunate that Doctors initially bore the brunt of the widespread panic resulting from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the chaotic spread of misinformation among people and rising uncertainties regarding the severity of the virus, healthcare professionals largely being lauded as “COVID warriors” became the center of attention.
It was during this time when medical professionals received major backlash for alleged medical negligence and the concept of negligence gained center-stage in India.
What are Patient Rights?
Patient rights are certain rightful claims that every patient can make to protect his/her interests and wellbeing in this country. Some common patient rights include Right to Information, Right to Consent, Right to Confidentiality and Privacy, Right to Equal Treatment and Right to Acquire Second Opinion.
Patient rights are accompanied by patient responsibilities too. Much like medical professionals who are devoted to saving lives, patients are also entrusted with the responsibility of always maintaining doctor-patient sanctity. For example, the responsibility of following prescribed treatment, responsibility of complying with requested follow-up appointment, responsibility of declaring accurate case history, etc.
Medical negligence is a highly relevant topic in the 21st century. With the constantly changing environment and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an individual’s ability to depend on valuable medical professionals is an absolute necessity.
To stay updated with the most recent information about medical negligence and spread awareness about patient rights, do share this article with your friends and family.
Know your patient rights and be prepared in the face of all challenges without fear.
If you want to know more or need medical negligence consultancy for your case, contact us and we will connect you to the best medical negligence lawyer to handle your case.
The Author :
Dr. Sunil Khattri
Dr Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi