CHANDIGARH: The 8th edition of the annual medico legal review held in Chandigarh reported that Punjab, with 24% of all medical legal cases, has become the top litigating state in the field of medical negligence.
West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu follow with 17%, 16% and 11% respectively. The review, being held every year since 2009 by the Institute of Medicine & Law (IML), reported that complaints by patients of being forced to buy medicines from hospitals are on the rise, a point on which courts have drawn adverse inference.
"As compared to previous years, 2015 has thrown up a number of noteworthy trends and interesting judgments. For instance, an unusually large number of cases of negligence have been reported against surgeons going on planned leave or absences immediately after a surgery. We have also noted that allegations related to diagnosis - delay, failure and improper diagnosis - doubled this year," said advocate Mahendrakumar Bajpai, keynote speaker and leading authority on medical laws.
The annual medico legal review has been summarizing changes in medical laws which have occurred in the previous year and predicting trends for the forthcoming year in the medico-legal environment from the perspective of healthcare providers.
Highlights from 2015 include Indian courts continuing with the trend of giving the benefit of doubt to doctors, not questioning correctness of medical records, except in cases of gross fabrications and courts continuing to hold that a wrong method or decision by a doctor does not necessarily constitute negligence. During emergencies, courts have been observed to be even more accommodating by overlooking and condoning deviation from standard protocol.
Some of the common allegations filed by patients in the preceding year included failure of hospitals and doctors to give complete details of treatment or charges, overcharging, prescription of expensive drugs unnecessarily and charging for a different type of room or facility.
In 2015, it was also observed that more aggrieved patients are suing 'only' hospitals and not doctors. The anomaly is brought to fore by two interesting cases. The first from Andhra Pradesh (Dr M Sarojini Devi v/s Galla Jayanthi) wherein despite directions from the court, the surgeon who performed the surgery negligently was not made a party by the patient.
The court had no other option but to hold 'only' the hospital negligent. The second case is from Delhi reported from the National Consumer Commission (Himanchal Kumari & Ors. v/s The Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Ors). The hospital alleged and admitted in court that the oncologist was negligent and not the resident doctor and the technician who gave radiation. The court agreed with what the hospital stated and did not hold the resident doctor and the technician negligent. But the hospital 'only' was held negligent as the oncologist was not sued by the patient.
In 2015, the Courts also held that a doctor relying on a wrong investigation report of another qualified radiologist, sonologist or pathologist and acting accordingly is not negligent. It also deplored appeals in trivial cases and penalized appellants. "On the whole, the year was good as well as bad for doctors. The courts are hesitant in holding healthcare providers negligent and are seeking more clear and convincing evidence from patients. But once convinced that the doctor or the hospital has been negligent, the penalty that follows is heavy."
Annual Medico Legal Review 2016 was presented by Supreme Court advocate Mahendrakumar Bajpai and chaired by Dr Suresh Vasishta, president, Association of Surgeons of India. Prominent speakers and guests included Yogendra Singh, advocate - High Court, Mumbai, Dr VP Singh, editor-Legal Issues in Medical Practice, among others.
The review in Chandigarh will be followed by reviews in Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore.