IMPACT OF MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE ON RIGHT TO HEALTH

” Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Health is considered as the biggest wealth of a human being. Heath care is now well recognized as  a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It includes within its ambit the right to health and medical care. The Indian Judiciary has again and again held that failure on treatment to person in need to preserve human life, would result in violation of his right to life.

In the words of the Apex Court in Parmanand Kataria v. Union of India AIR 1989 SC2039 ” every doctor, at the government hospital or elsewhere, has a professional obligation to extend his services with due expertise for protecting life.”

A doctor is termed as god`s friend as they deal with real human lives. In certain circumstances, a doctor can mean the difference between life and death.  Though a doctor may not be in the position to save his patient`s life at all times, he is expected to use his special knowledge and skill in the most appropriate manner keeping in mind the interest of the patient who has entrusted his life to him.

With the growing population and modernization of scientific techniques various aspects of health care have been enacted with the view to improve the functioning of the hospitals and to decrease the inadequacies and malpractice.

The medical profession is considered as a noble profession as it helps one to preserve the human life. A patient has some expectation from the doctor which can be classified into twofold: Firstly, the treatment which is being given to him should be provided with utmost knowledge and skill. Secondly, such treatment should not cause any harm to the patient which is likely to occur due to the negligence and carelessness of doctors and nurses.

Negligence on the other hand is mere failure to exercise due care. It has three important ingredients:

  • duty of care.
  • breach of duty of care.
  • injury due to the breach of duty of care.

In a medical negligence case, most often, the doctor/hospital is the defendant. Failure of the doctor and hospital to discharge this obligation is essentially a tortious liability. Thus, a patient`s  right to receive medical attention from doctors and hospitals is essentially a civil right. The relationship takes the shape of a contract to some extent because of informed consent, payment of fees and performance of surgery/providing treatment, etc. while retaining elements of tort.

In the famous case of Kunal Saha v. AMRI Hospital, also famously known as the Anuradha Saha case, highest compensation was awarded by the Supreme Court of India amounting to Rs. 11 crore. The judgment dated was 24-10-2013.

A patient has trust and faith in his doctor. He is under the believe that the doctor having the full knowledge and skill would surely get him back to normal and would not cause any damage to his life or body. But how far is the possible is tough to answer. Every day one gets to read in the newspaper about various negligent acts of doctors resulting in the death of the patients.

Negligently operating instruments are left inside the body of the patients. The patient is not treated for the problem he comes with before the doctor, but negligently some other treatment is provided to him. This is the most common practice these days.

In the case of State of Haryana v. Smt. Santra AIR 2000 SC 1488, the plaintiff had undergone sterilization and developed pregnancy after that giving birth to her 8th child. a case was filed against the doctor as they were negligent per se as he had obviously failed in his professional duty to take care and therefore no further proof of negligence was needed. The claimant was entitled to compensation.

Various incidents have been recorded where a patient who is brought to the hospital in a critical condition is not provided immediate treatment as seen in the case of  Prabhad Kumar Mukherjee  v. Ruby General Hospital & others II 2005 CPJ 35 (NC) .

The verdicts of the courts in various medical negligence cases acts as a deterrent and reminds those doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other connected establishments who do not take their responsibilities seriously.

As it is said ” The best doctors give the least medicine, so take due care and avoid being negligent while providing treatment to the patients”.

For everything can wait in life but time and death of a patient cannot wait.

Seema Agarwal

Research Asst. in Law

Indian Institute of Legal Studies

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