Tue Sep 23, 2014 2:54 pm .
complaints are personality based rather than issue based.
While we do our technical and moral best to treat our
patients, we must develop the art of sympathetic and deft
handling of patients’ relatives so that they are constantly
informed and should see that we are doing our best. When there is
a doubt in their mind OR there is a lack of adequate
communication from the doctor then medicolegal complains arise in
the face of an adverse event.
A bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and H S Bedi said on
Wednesday that it was the bounden duty of society to ensure that
doctors perform their duties without apprehension of malicious
prosecution though the interests of the patients should be
“The medical practitioners at times also have to be saved from
such a class of complainants who 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,” Justices
Bhandari writing the judgement said.
The apex court made the remarks while dismissing the Rs. 45-lakh
compensation claim of Kusum Latha, widow of R K Sharma, Senior
Operations Manager in Indian Oil Corporation's Marketing Division
who, according to the claimants, died due to negligence committed
by the doctors of Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre.
Sharma died on October 11, 1990, of ‘pyogenic meningitis' after
doctors at the hospital performed a surgery to remove an
encapsulated malignant tumour in the left adrenal on the
abdominal side which involved a complicated procedure. Kusum
Latha moved the National Consumer Disputes Redredssal Commission
(NCDRC) with a plea forRs. 45 lakh compensation charging that the
death occurred due to medical negligence. The Commission, after
examining various records, dismissed the widow’s plea, after
which she moved the apex court. The apex court too, after perusal
of the records and hearing the parties, noted that in the present
case Kusum Latha could not establish the charge of negligence.
Citing a number of its earlier judgements, the apex court said
medical professionals are entitled to protection so long as they
perform their duties with reasonable skill and competence and in
the interest of patients. “The interest and welfare of the
patients have to be paramount for medical professionals. Doctors
in complicated cases have to take a chance even if the rate of
survival is low.”
The professionals should be held liable for his act or omission
but courts, at the same time, have to be extremely careful to
ensure that professionals are not unnecessarily harassed and they
are able to carry out their professional duties without fear, the
apex court said.
According to the apex court, the normal human tendency is to pick
fault whenever there is a death in the family for which the
doctor cannot be made a scapegoat. “It is a matter of common
knowledge that after some unfortunate event, there is a marked
tendency to look for a human factor to blame for an untoward
event, a tendency which is closely linked with the desire to
punish. Things have gone wrong and, therefore, somebody must be
found to answer for it.
“A professional deserves total protection. The Indian Penal Code
has taken care to ensure that people who act in good faith should
not be punished. Sections 88, 92 and 370 of the Indian Penal Code
give adequate protection to the professional and particularly
medical professionals,” the bench said.
The apex court said to prosecute a medical professional for
negligence under criminal law it must be shown that the accused
did something or failed to do something which in the given facts
and circumstances no medical professional in his ordinary senses
and prudence would have done or failed to do.
However, it clarified that “We should not be understood to have
held that doctors can never be prosecuted for medical negligence.
As long as the doctors have performed their duties and exercised
an ordinary degree of professional skill and competence, they
cannot be held guilty of medical negligence