18 August, 2016

For relatives of patients who spend endless hours outside the Intensive Care and Critical Care Units of private hospitals, without a clue as to what care and treatment is being administered to their loved ones, there is hope finally from the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the apex court sought to know from the Centre and Medical Council of India (MCI) on whether any guidelines are prescribed for private hospitals on providing care to patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Critical Care Unit (CCU) so that those, who suffer as a consequence of negligence on part of doctors or hospital administration, can approach the consumer forum for compensation.

The order by a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and UU Lalit came on a petition by one Asit Baran Mandal, a resident of West Bengal, who complained against a doctor for negligence due to which post-operation, he lost his daughter-in-law. Mandal, who was represented by advocate Rabin Majumdar, submitted that medical negligence is distinct from criminal negligence, but in the absence of any fixed guidelines, the consumer courts are unable to deal with the merits of a case where a doctor's negligence to administer tertiary care post-operation can result in a patient's death.

In the present case, Mandal claimed that the treating physician should have been well-advised to ask for a Liver Function Tests (LFT) soon after his daughter-in-law was operated for her pregnancy. She died three days after the operation as her bilirubin levels touched alarming proportions. Mandal alleged that this could have been avoided had the levels been checked on day one.

"Medical negligence is writ large in number of private hospitals and there is no check on it," the petition filed by Mandal stated. In his case, the hospital concerned was Kalyani Wellcare Nursing Home in West Bengal. No proper care is given post-operation which is crucial in a patient's recovery, claimed the petition. Hearing the plea, the bench decided to seek response from Centre, MCI and State Governments within six weeks.