Lack of proper records hits medical negligence lawsuits

08 July, 2016

Activists say governments must do more to generate awareness about issue 

Despite increasing access to consumer forums and growing awareness among the public, victims of medical negligence and their relatives are often left in a quandary as to who they can approach for justice. The few who approach the consumer court or civil court, struggle to provide evidence for their allegations due to improperly maintained medical records.

Naveen (name changed), for example, had to undergo re-circumcision following a botched first attempt. The botched procedure forced him to postpone his marriage; he developed swelling and infection. The banker then approached a lawyer to file a case in the consumer forum. But his lawyer lost the case as Naveen hadn’t maintained all medical records.

Kuppili Muralidhar, a senior advocate and president of the Forum of Legal Professionals, said, “If the patient has any issues with the treatment or medical care, his/her first port of call should be the respective doctor or hospital to sort things out. But if the patient strongly finds breach of legal duty to care or he feels the damage is directly related to negligence on the part of the doctor, he can file a case in either a Consumer Court or a Civil Court. In some cases, he can also contact the state medical council. But before initiating legal action, the complainant should be clear about why he is knocking on the door of the Court. Proper medical documentation, including case sheet, prescriptions, diagnostics, discharge certificate etc are vital to prove medical negligence.”

Sometimes unsterilised equipment /material used during treatment or medical procedures botches up surgeries. The ICUs and operation theatres harbour antibiotic-resistant microbes such as MRSA, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, etc. This is also a threat to patients. In January, 12 patients lost their vision due to the presence of antibiotic-resistant, Gram-negative Pseudomonas bacteria in an operation theatre in Rajkot. Seven patients developed post-operative complications after use of a Klebsiella-contaminated saline solution during surgeries at an eye hospital in Hyderabad.

Known consumer activist and state convener of the Public Forum, Kandregula Venkata Ramana, rued the lack of awareness among people. “The government should create awareness in both doctors as well as patients,” he said.