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Rise of Medico-Legal Litigation

The question of rising cases against doctors has to be imperatively seen in the socio-legal context for the consequences entailed in the profession of being a doctor and the ethical dilemmas which are bound to occur in the average course of a doctor’s career. There is a surge of cases arising in relation with the medical industry and it is pertinent to point out these flaws in the system to create a sense of trust between the medical and legal industry with relation to consumers to nip these issues in the bud.

It has almost become a daily occurrence to encounter the news of botched eye surgeries[1] in rural areas or medical negligence on account of non-compliance with guidelines[2]. However, that still does not answer the question of the multitude of barrages of cases that exist.

In a study of AIIMS Forensic Department[3], there were various causes listed for the number of medical negligence cases bloating up exponentially.

Dr. Abhishek Yadav who led the study had reported that allegations were found to be more common in age groups of children and adolescent (50%) with a declining trend with an increase in age. “The super-speciality hospitals are accused of negligence in 65% cases,” he added.

The allegation against the hospitals, both private and government, is in the ratio of 1.8:1, Yadav said. “Wrong treatment/procedure was the main reason (45%),” he added.

This study in specific context dealt with a sample size case of 20 wronged patients and ascertained the reasons for the cases arising thereof whereby the leading cause being Non-compliance of Procedure or Wrong Treatment.

However, the question that is to be dealt with is What happens when Doctors blatantly disregard the procedures due to the mere fact that patients are at their mercy and they have the power to do so or a situation exists where the Doctor has to take judgement call in good faith(bona fide) for the benefit of the patient which unintentionally leads to his harm. To a common mind, these would seem to be simple or rather straightforward answers but with the amalgamation of legal aspects and the intricacies of the law, these cases may possibly be ongoing ad infinitum i.e exceed the lifetime of petitioner and defendant altogether defeating the very purpose it strives to achieve.

In a striking case, the Delhi Medical Council[4] had deregistered two orthopaedic surgeons for six months for operating the wrong leg of a 24-year-old man who was admitted at Fortis Hospital in Shalimar Bagh after fracturing his right foot, as bizarre this may sound, this is the harsh reality of the life that doctors are also Human Beings and not the Gods that many would love to perceive them to be . Thus, it can be safely assumed that the malpractice/negligence on part of Doctors has emerged as the main reason for litigation that exists today.

Strategies To Prevent Litigation

It is the duty of a doctor as much as that of a lawyer to take care of his patient/client. It is documented that in Medical litigation, that the foremost principle is of that to “ record everything”, If you want to be protected from frivolous lawsuits then there is a need to ensure that every treatment provided by the doctor is recorded in an official document so as to be able to have evidence of the treatment for further inspection.

There are other various suggestions that the doctors should be acquainted for having a smooth practice and as well as building a rapporteur amongst the fraternity for their practices. The onus in such cases is generally shifted on the doctors for the skill and nature of their job is innately fiduciary and of that having a certain effective obligatory coercive control over the choices and decisions exercised by the patients. Thus, an effective Medical Council Rules incorporating the guidelines so as to prevent Litigation action against the Doctors in necessitate.

There are certain thumb rules which should be followed and mostly they would be present in an apparently logical and cautious mind but their need should be time and again be stressed to ensure the maximum ratio of improvement. Some of the essential points to be incorporated in the guidelines should be to establish Good patient-caregiver Relationships,  Be Clear & Consistent, Getting Informed Consent, Accurate and Complete Documentation, Stay Current, Be Prepared, Follow Proper Procedures.

[1] Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/botched-up-cataract-surgery-new-surgeries-for-19-patients-in-rohtak-pgi/articleshow/68622538.cms.

[2]Case in Point-Death of a 10 year old in Medanta, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-cure-for-medical-malpractice/article23994053.ece.

[3] Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/medical-negligence-cases-rising-study/articleshow/57844510.cms.

[4]  Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/two-fortis-doctors-operate-on-wrong-foot-of-patient-lose-license-for-6-months/story-4nYymFNIssfrdlykIUKQGL.html.

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