India is a unique country and to be a doctor of modern scientific medicine in this country requires to have a self destructive streak which is becoming increasingly intolerable. Medical profession in India is the most lackadaisical and laggard when it comes to looking after its own interests. We are taught and continue to learn throughout life how to help others who are in a problem but no one teaches us how to help ourselves. We have quietly and meekly accepted whatever our rulers and courts have thrust upon us without a whimper of protest. It is no wonder that this is the only profession where those who are unqualified can claim to be equal to us and get political support. No one who is not qualified can claim to be an advocate, a judge, an architect or a chartered accountant but even retired judge from a high court (supposed to be aware of legality of quackery) practised as a kidney stone specialist in Chandigarh for many years with impunity.
Doctors are expected to be professionals when the talk is of ethics, they are traders under shops and commercial establishment acts, Commercial activity when it comes to charges to be paid for utilities like electricity and water, and demons and criminals when portrayed on electronic media for their failures. But the worst part is the fact that for failing to save someone they are hauled up on criminal charges. Most of us celebrated the judgments of Supreme Court namely Dr Suresh Gupta vs NCT of Delhi, and Jacob Mathew vs State of Punjab which laid down guidelines on how to prosecute Doctors under criminal law for professional lapses. Looking back at these I wonder what was it that we celebrated ? They only took away arbitrary powers of the SHO and placed some checks on them but these and other judgments firmly established that Doctors could be prosecuted under criminal charges. Should we not have fought this tooth and nail. How many other professionals are prosecuted for criminal negligence and why this selective and preferential accountability and criminal prosecution.
The moment we accepted that Doctors are covered under Consumer Protection Act our downfall ran a predicted and spiralling downward trajectory. From being covered under CPA for outright cases of negligence to the mob taking “justice” into its own hands has been a short 2 decades. Despite Section 88 & 92 of IPC decriminalizing anything done in good faith not intended to cause death done by consent whether express or implied or even without consent for benefit of other, Doctors are being charged under section 304, 304 A and 302 IPC. It is our fault that we have accepted it silently thanking God that it was someone else and not us who has faced the problem. We fail to register that tomorrow it may be our turn. But under Section 302 for not succeeding in trying to help someone the penalty here is death !! Case was filed under Section 302 IPC for murder against Dr Archana Massey in Azamgarh UP on 20th March 2016 for doing decapitation for a patient in obstructed labour whose previous six deliveries had been conducted by her. I have more than 11 cases where section 304 (Not 304 A which are in thousands) was applied against doctors.
Question arises how do we get out of this mess we find ourselves in. Absolute and total unity enforced by a strong central body with no fragmentation into Government doctors, private doctors, corporate doctors, or rural doctors is a must. Despite my abhorrence for strikes and road protests the only way to get relief in this country seems to be to have nuisance value. Therein lies the problem , the moment doctors talk of strike suddenly they are placed on pedestal of nobility and “next to Godliness” to shame them not to stoop to the level which is routine in this country for someone wanting to become a Member Parliament. The Bankers , truckers, advocates strikes which cause loss of thousands of crores and some people even their lives are acceptable to our collective societal psyche. But doctors talking of strike shakes our indignant moral fibre to the core. All right maybe few doctors arrested and jailed for a couple of years may not raise our hackles sufficiently, but will sentencing of few doctors (single will not do) to death by hanging for not being able to save a patient who developed PPH do the needful, I wonder ? It is time we raised our demand in one voice;
1) Doctors should be removed from the ambit of CPA or at the very least a capping of compensations being awarded against doctors be done under CPA
2) Any professional negligence should be adjudicated by the medical councils which first need to clean up their own acts through appropriate reforms.
3) There should be no ground for criminal charges to be entertained against a doctor for medical negligence in total absence of “mens rea”.
4) Stringent action (7 years imprisonment and fine) be prescribed against those indulging in violence against doctors and against those in position of authority who choose to ignore such incidents.
5) Internal Accountability of leaders in IMA and other professional bodies who do not fulfil their responsibilities during their tenure.
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor,Medicos Legal Action Group, Managing Director MLAG Indemnity,
Ex President IMA Chandigarh
Director Hope Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Clinic,
1184, Sector 21 B Chandigarh
09316517176 , 9814013735
0172; 4633735, 2707935, 2706024, 5087794
email; email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
For Contributions; “Medicos Legal Action Group” Ac No 499601010036479 IFSC code UBIN0549967 Union Bank Sector 35 C Chandigarh;