SC urges need of better health care in government hospitals

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New Delhi, Jan 20 (UNI) The Supreme Court has stressed on the urgent need of improving health care facilities in government and charitable hospitals in view of the increasing commercialisation of medical treatment in private hospitals and nursing homes.

A Bench of Justices comprising B N Agarwal, P P Naolekar and R V Raveendran while holding a private doctor guilty of performing surgery without the consent of the patient has noted, '' Health care (like education) can thrive in the hands of charitable institutions. It also requires more serious attention from the state.

In a developing country like ours where millions of poor, downtrodden and illiterate cry out for health care, there is a desperate need for making health care easily accessible and affordable. Remarkable developments in the field of medicine might have revolutionised health care, but they can not be afforded by the common man.

Gone are the days when any patient could go to a neighbourhood general practioner or a family doctor and get affordable treatment at a very reasonable cost, with affection care and concerns. Their noble tribe is dwindling. Every doctor wants to be a specialist.

The proliferation of specialists and superspecialists have exhausted many a patients both financially and physically.'' The apex court has also expressed concern about the pitialble conditions in government hospitals and charitable institutions.

Justice Raveendran writing the 67 page judgement for the Bench also noted, '' In India majority of citizens requiring medical care and treatment fall below the poverty line. Most of them are illiterate or semi-illiterate. They can not comprehend medical terms, concepts and treatment procedures. They can not unerstand the functions of various organs or the effect of removal of such organs.

They do not have access to effective but costly diagnostic procedures.

Poor patients lying in corridors of hospitals after admission for want of bed waiting for days on the roadside for an admission or an examination is a common sight. The poor and the needy face a hostile medical environment-inadequacy in the number of hospitals and bed, non-availability of adequate treatment facilities, utter lack of qualitative treatment, corruption, cllousness and apathy.

Many poor patients with serious ailments (e.g. heart patients and cancer patients) have to wait for months for their turn even for diagnosis and due to limited treatment facilites, many die even before their turn comes for treatment.'' The Supreme Court has also expressed concerns over the attitude of doctors specially in private hospitals who instead of providing immediate relief from pain and suffering by prompt treatment at reasonable cost, treat the patients as income provider public customers who can be exploited by prolonged or radical diagnostic and treatment procedures and such doctors bring bad name to the entire profession.

The apex court in the present case directed the erring doctor Prabha Manachanda to pay a compensation of Rs 25,000 with interest to the patient Samira Kohli whose uterus and ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed by the doctors in May 1995. The apex court on anuary 16 also directed not to charge any professional fee from the patient and refund the same with interest if the fee has already been taken and also directed the doctor to pay a cost of Rs 5000 to the patient and also held that everyone has absolute right and control over his or her body and can not be subjected to any surgery or treatment without prior consent in writing.

UNI AKS/SC RC GC1357

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