Detention of patients, dead bodies soon to be a criminal offence?

In the wake of several complaints that some hospitals detain patients who want to get discharged, following dispute over payment, the charter has made it clear that it is the duty of the hospital to not wrongfully confine any patient, or dead body of a patient, treated in the hospital under any circumstance

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Many times unnecessary arguments break out in hospitals over patient’s not being discharged on time, or not being given a discharge till all the medical bills have been paid. It is also observed that relatives are not handed over the body of their deceased relatives, if there are pending bills to be paid

This takes a violent turn at times as relatives and doctors or hospital staff comes to blows. It not only causes and inconvenience to the patients and relatives but also leaves a bad impression about the medical facility and creates a rift in doctor-patients relationships

Right to take discharge of patient, or receive body of deceased from hospital

‘A patient has the right to take discharge and cannot be detained in a hospital, on procedural grounds such as dispute in payment of hospital charges. Similarly, caretakers have the right to the dead body of a patient who had been treated in a hospital and the dead body cannot be detailed on procedural grounds, including non-payment/dispute regarding payment of hospital charges against wishes of the caretakers.

The hospital management has a duty to observe these rights and not to indulge in wrongful confinement of any patient, or dead body of patient, treated in the hospital under any circumstances.’

If they do not adhere to this the hospital administration can be prosecuted under the following laws:

  • Prohibition of wrongful confinement under Sec. 340-342 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) statements of Bombay High Court.
  • Consumer Protection Act 1986.

In order to safeguard the rights of the patients’ the National Human Rights Commission and Union Health Ministry have come together and established a Charter of Patients’ Rights.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Abhijit More, Co-convener Jan Aarogya Abhiyan, a Pune-based NGO, said, “The courts in India, have also opined about the charter of patient rights time and again. That’s why the charter of patients’ rights is very important. Our demand is that the union health ministry should implement the Charter of Patients’ Rights as soon as possible. Patient’s rights also mentioned, filing FIR if the hospital detains the patient or the dead body. But, there should also be transparency in the bills which are raised by the hospital.”

YP Yajurvedi Rao, RTI activist and President of the Society for Awareness of Civil Rights, “A number of times we hear from the relatives that the patient or the dead body has been detained due to non-payment of the bill. Charter of Patient’s Rights will safeguard the patients.”