Enactment of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 has brought into light of numerous cases related medical negligence cases. Many patients are now filing cases against the doctors who showed negligence in their duty, which can be seen as the direct impact on the society of their awareness on protection of rights of the consumer, that is being promoted by the machinery established under the said Act in pursuance of the objects of the Act. Courts recognized the scenario and while dealing number of cases, had made number of legal decisions and rulings, and also awarded adequate compensations to the victims of medical negligence.
In legal terms, negligence is the breach of legal duty where the situation mandates carefulness. Negligence is the act of carelessness where at most care is required. Medical negligence is the breach of duty committed by the people, who are providing medical services. Experts in medical field ought to be more diligent in providing consultation, treatment, diagnosis, medical and surgical operations to the innocent people who trusts them and submit their bodies with them for medical treatment. The Supreme Court in State of Haryana vs. Smt. Santra (2000) 5 SCC 182 held that “every doctor has a duty to act with a reasonable degree of care and skill”. In Poonam Verma Vs. Ashwin Patel , Supreme Court laid down two principles, first one , “a person is held liable at law for the consequences of negligence” and second principle is that Consumer Protection Act is applicable to person engaged in medical profession either as private practitioners or as government doctors working in hospitals, and compensation must be awarded for loss or injury suffering by patient (consumer) due to negligence of the doctor”
Remedies available against medical negligence are:
The Consumer (patient or spouse or next friend) can file a complaint against doctors, staff or hospital whether private or government hospitals who committed negligence seeking monetary compensation before Civil Court under law of Torts or Law of Contract, High Court under the constitutional law, or Consumer Courts under Consumer Protection Act (Individual liability and Institutional or hospital liability)
- Filing a criminal complaint under Indian Penal Code against the doctor.
- Filing a complaint seeking disciplinary action against the medical practitioner or the hospitals whoever it may be, before statutory bodies governing the medical practitioners such as Indian Medical Council or State Medical Council.
- Complaint can be filed before the National/State Human Rights Commission seeking compensation.
In the recent landmark judgment Balram Prasad vs Kunal Saha & Ors on 24/10/2013, Supreme Court awarded compensation of about Rs.11 Crores in which it has discussed in length about “just compensation” concept in detail.
By Anitha Gutti