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Medical negligence: Stricter laws are need of the hour

By Reetu

Medical negligence is becoming a daily affair in India
One's faith in the medical profession is tested more and more with each passing day. And with cases of medical negligence coming to fore every day, one's faith is lost in doctors who are believed to be gods' to their patients.

Latest case of medical negligence which shows shocking and grave carelessness of doctors was of 33-year-old woman Namrata Bhargav. A large piece of cotton gauze was recovered from her abdomen six months after she underwent a caesarean section at Fortis Hospital in Noida-Sector 62. The Fortis hospital staff left the gauze inside her stomach on 22 December, 2013. The piece of cloth was recently detected after she had to undergo tests following complaints of acute stomach pain and frequent vomiting.

Namrata's husband Amul Bhargava, a manager with a private firm in Noida was quoted as saying in TOI, "On June 28 we admitted her to Max Hospital in Saket, Delhi, and she underwent surgery on June 30 to remove the cloth. Her legs and hands have swollen due to infection and according to doctors she will be kept under observation for the next few days."

Namrata's brother alleged that when Namrata's family approached the Fortis hospital, the officials kept passing the buck to different departments and did nothing substantial to solve the problem.

Almost every day such cases come to light and make us realise that our healthcare system is in shambles.

Did Anuradha Saha's case set a precedent?

In October 2013, a ruling by the Supreme Court held three physicians responsible for death of Anuradha Saha, a US-based psychologist in a Kolkata hospital and awarded a record compensation.

The apex court's verdict established gross dereliction of duty by doctors and marked the highest compensation of Rs.5.96 crore, which with interest crossed Rs 11 crore. It was hailed as a potential turning point in Indian legal history. But even after this, nothing much has changed yet.

Supreme Court's say:

The Supreme Court bench while giving the verdict in Anuradha Saha's case had said, "The doctors, hospitals, the nursing homes and other connected establishments are to be dealt with strictly if they are found to be negligent with the patients who come to them pawning all their money with the hope to live a better life with dignity."

Warning people associated with practice of medicine the court said, "The patients irrespective of their social, cultural and economic background are entitled to be treated with dignity which not only forms their fundamental right but also their human right. We, therefore, hope and trust that this decision acts as a deterrent and a reminder to those doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other connected establishments who do not take their responsibility seriously. "

Without condoning such incidents and realising the haplessness of the aggrieved the courts have forced hospitals and doctors to cough up huge compensation money to the aggrieved.

People have blind faith in doctors, but doctors are exploiting this faith with sheer callousness which is nothing but a criminal breach of trust. In our country, which is considered a hub of medical tourism, its very own citizens cannot enjoy quality health care. And more shocking is the fact that the state and the Centre both have not really been keen on changing the situation and improvising the moribund system of medical care.

The Government should first focus on refurbishing existing hospitals and then think about setting up more of them. More steps should be taken for the welfare of the people and a robust health-care network, not just in cities and towns, but also in remote villages should be created.

Decisions in the past have been good and have made this murky area a bit tidy but strict laws are needed which would benefit the layman.

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