While we speak about the rising violence against doctors in India, we rarely speak about the other side of the same coin, which is about the cases of negligence against doctors. When things go wrong in hospitals during the treatment of the patients, the relatives often allege medical negligence against doctors and also file cases in several instances.
Although, most cases are due to natural death or complications, a few cases can be genuinely attributed to medical negligence caused by doctors. These cases are first brought to the notice of the respective State Medical Council and if the doctor feels that the sentence is unfair then the case is challenged in the Medical Council of India.
Prasun Banerjee, a Trinamool Congress MP raised the question of medical negligence and professional misconduct by doctors in India. The MP wished to know whether the Government has taken note of rise in the number of cases pertaining to medical negligence and professional misconduct by the doctors in the country; if so, the details thereof and necessary corrective steps taken by the Government in this regard.
The MP also sought information on the percentage of medical negligence cases that resulted in conviction; and the number of doctors convicted of professional misconduct in the country, State/UT-wise.
In response to this question, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, stated, “Medical Council of India (MCI) with the prior approval of the Central Government has notified Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette And Ethics) Regulations, 2002 to prescribe standards of professional conduct and etiquette and code of ethics for medical practitioners.”
He added, “The MCI or the appropriate State Medical Councils have been empowered to take disciplinary action against a doctor for violation of the provisions of the aforesaid Regulations.”
Choubey further stated, “The complaints regarding medical negligence by the doctors as and when received by MCI are referred to the concerned State Medical Councils where the medical practitioners are registered. The data of the punishment awarded by the State Medical Councils is not maintained centrally.”
He explained, “However, the cases, where the orders of the State Medical Councils for awarding punishment to a medical practitioner are upheld by the MCI.”
The cases are as under:
- i) Year 2017 – 69 cases awarded punishment (44%)
- ii) Year 2018 – 40 cases awarded punishment (28.5%)
iii) Year 2019 (upto June, 2019) – 28 cases awarded punishment (46%)
Public awareness of medical negligence in India is growing. Hospital managements are increasingly facing complaints regarding the facilities, standards of professional competence, and the appropriateness of their therapeutic and diagnostic methods.
After the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, has come into force some patients have filed legal cases against doctors, have established that the doctors were negligent in their medical service, and have claimed and received compensation. As a result, a number of legal decisions have been made on what constitutes negligence and what is required to prove it.
Negligence is the breach of a legal duty to care. It means carelessness in a matter in which the law mandates carefulness. A breach of this duty gives a patient the right to initiate action against negligence.
In Indian law, a case of medical malpractice can be proved only by a committee of peers – by doctors who are members of various State Medical Councils.