Ways to Protect against Medical Negligence in India Case 1: Forty-five-year-old Paresh Anand was admitted to a reputed, private hospital for a surgery. His intestines were obstructed with a growth. A surgery would fix it for him. Paresh and his family were very relieved. Because for months he had been battling with excruciating pain and discomfort. On the day of the surgery he was upbeat as he was being wheeled inside the operation theatre. A few hours later, Paresh woke up to a pain-free experience. After discharge there were sporadic episodes of stabbing pain in his abdomen. They got worse as weeks passed. One afternoon he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The x-ray and ultrasound reports showed a needle was lodged in his abdomen. It turned out during his surgery the surgeon who had been patching him up, had 'accidently' left the needle there. Case 2: Sanjay Sethi and his pregnant wife, Shruti were due for a checkup in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Since her gynecologist was on leave, Sanjay took his wife to another reputed hospital in the city. After an initial examination the gynecologist gave them a shock. They were told that Shruti would have to undergo an emergency C-section to deliver the baby. The reason cited was that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the baby's neck and the baby could strangle to death any moment. They were not shown an reports to substantiate this as they were told 'it was too dangerous to delay' the surgery. The aghast couple agreed and decided to rush to the OT. But Sanjay felt something was amiss. Mumbling an excuse he rushed his wife out of the hospital and took her to her nursing home. It turned out in the ultrasound report that the baby was fine and the umbilical cord was in place too. In the last decade India has witnessed there has been an alarming spike in cases of medical negligence across all cities. While many hesitate to appeal before the courts or claim compensation there has been an increase in complaints of medical negligence. Recently, a Supreme Court advocate Mahendra Kumar Bajpai conducted a study in such cases. Bajpai, who is a specialist in medical law had interesting facts to reveal. According to the study, there has been a 110 percent rise medical negligence cases within the country. Also, 90 percent of medical negligence involve hospitals, and 12 per cent of all the cases decided by consumer courts are on medical negligence. The study further adds that between 60 to 66 percent of the filed because hospitals take improper consent from relatives before performing certain procedures or changing hospitals. Sometimes improper documentation of diagnosis and treatment is also responsible for these cases. WHAT IS THE LAW ON MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE The basis of medical negligence law is rooted in two parameters. These are: a) A person / patient has suffered injury due to medical negligence. b) That the medical practitioner/doctor/institution has a duty to Impart care. A medical practitioner/doctor/institution has breached his prime duty of imparting proper care.
Sections 52, 80, 81, 83, 88, 90, 91, 92 304-A, 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) cover medical malpractices in India. This is known as criminal liability and negligence. The examples of this include : If the patient dies during an operation because of anesthesia and precautions have not been followed. If it is proved that the patient has died because of deliberate act or gross negligence then the doctor can be hauled up for this. In case of civil liability and negligence, 'a breach' of duty can make a doctor /medical practitioner liable to be hauled up. It centres around an error of judgment while imparting treatment or a diagnosis. However, other circumstances and factors are also taken into consideration here. SOME FACTS ABOUT MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE Medical negligence claims 5.2 million lives in India, each year. Coordination and communication by medical team during emergency is cited as a major reason for such deaths. Human errors and wrong treatment. What you should know about filing a Medical Negligence Case You can file a case if any instrument is left in the body post surgery. Removal of a wrong body part/ operation of wrong body part. Prescription records/Discharge summary is not provided. An organ is damaged due to negligence. Non-availability/Empty oxygen cylinder at a hospital. Treatment which is not accepted in medical science is administered. Why people hesitate in filing medical negligence cases Often, they are unaware of the gravity of their medical situation and how it would impact heir health. They fear long drawn court proceedings or don't understand or are unaware of the laws. People feel powerless to take on private institutions and doctors. Medical negligence laws should also cover a whole range of other things which usually go unreported. This is because relatives and families of patients are unwilling to complain against the very doctor who is treating their kin. Most of the time patients and their families are ignorant of the existing laws in the country. Corrupt medical practitioners, nursing homes and hospitals tend to exploit these facts. There have been real life horror stories when patients discovered that instead of ovarian cysts, their uterus has been removed or a kidney has been removed instead of kidney stone. Demetrali Legal has collated some examples of exploitation of patients: Deliberately prescribing expensive vaccines or medicines when cheaper but equally effective alternatives are available. Uneducated and poverty stricken healthy people are lured into organ donation.
Pregnant women are made to undergo Cesarean deliveries instead of a normal one. Overcharging for stents despite government prescribed rates. Fake operations. Different patients get charged different rates for the same procedure and operations. Prescribing more tests than required. Deliberately withholding discharge to make more money via hospital room. Experienced medical negligence lawyers help you a lot to get compensation in all above cases. Echoing this, a senior Appollo Hospital doctor said on condition of anonymity, "In many private hospitals doctors are given monthly and quarterly 'monetary targets' with directly impact their appraisals. Therefore increasingly brain dead or medically dead patients are deliberately kept alive on life support systems like ventilators just to inflate treatment bills and meet those 'sale targets.' There have been cases wherein such patients have suffered brain damage because of infections and other factors. You will also hear of instances where invasive procedures are recommended when there is really no need for them. People are frightened into submission where doctors deliberately paint a 'doomsday' scenario. People blindly trust doctors and go ahead with these recommendations. These issues need to be covered seriously, else people's lives will continued to be played with."