How to lodge a complaint against medical negligence in India?

Last Updated at: Jul 29, 2022
How to lodge a complaint against medical negligence in India?

There are 1000s of medical negligences cases being reported in India. Out of which only a very few get resolved at the Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions at the national level. Medical malpractice occurs when the practitioners or health care professionals involve in the breach of the legal duty to care for the patients. The persons involved in the medical field are obliged by law to have sound knowledge and skills to offer the right treatment to the patients.

This article will talk about medical negligence and how an action can be taken by the patients. 

When does medical negligence happen?

Following are the instances of medical negligence.

  • Damage to an organ arising due to negligence of the hospital staff
  • Handling out wrong treatment due to a faulty diagnosis
  • Bills, prescriptions and discharges offered with wrong advice
  • Treatment given against the accepted medical norms
  • An instrument is left in the body of the patient, post the surgery
  • The removal of the wrong body part
  • If a homoeopathic doctor serves allopathic treatment 
  • Non-availability of oxygen cylinders
  • Employee’s salary wrongfully deducted by a Government hospital
  • If the following steps are not followed by the book, by a doctor/medical practitioner;
  • Deciding to take the case
  • Determining the treatment to be administered
  • Whether treatment was given as per a diagnosis

When a doctor is not liable?

  1. If a method of treatment was chosen due to the firm belief that it would work, and the treatment methodology is a medically certified one.
  2. A doctor is not responsible for healing or curing every disease and cannot be held accountable for deaths if he or she tried their best to save the patient.
  3. If a wrong diagnosis was made even after following the best practices, and the subsequent treatment failed as a result of an incorrect diagnosis 

Principle of working

    • While the Indian Medical Council has the right to control doctors and ensure specific standards are maintained, consumer courts also have the right to make sure that the rights of the consumers are protected.
    • While the field of medicine is different from other professions and requires more effort, commercialisation has resulted in more competition. Yet, it is still a noble and respected profession that deserves a lot of respect and faith.
    • The members of the court themselves have some technical knowledge of their own, because only then can they form educated opinions on what doctors have done. 
    • Criminal cases of neglect take a different route from consumer cases. Gross negligence that results in grave issues, and an intention to commit a crime from the side of the medical practitioner leads to criminal cases. 

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What to do in the case of medical negligence?

  1. The first step to be taken in case of medical negligence is to file a proper complaint to the State Medical Council against the concerned doctor, practitioner or authority.
  2. The victim may file a complaint via the consumer court or a criminal court a per the nature of the negligence.
  3. But one must note that a lawsuit against a hospital leads to a long drawn out court battle that will end up being a very costly affair.
  4. If the victim wishes to receive monetary compensation, the best way would be to approach a consumer court.
  5. Once a complaint is filed, the consumer court investigates the claim. 
  6. In some cases, they can even suspend the concerned doctor’s license if he or she is found responsible for gross negligence.
  7. The victim can instead choose to approach a Patient-Advocate, who is someone who conveys medical duty owed to the patient.
  8. In case of a breach, the patient-advocate will inform the victims of the steps they are to take.
  9. The patient-advocate will also advise the patient with regards to monetary compensation, legal disposition and other such things.

How to file a complaint? – A detailed procedure

  • File a complaint with the local police and the concerned state medical council.
  • If the complaint is filed to the police, they may then proceed to forward the complaint to the State Medical council.
  • In case the council finds enough evidence to 0take the case seriously, they will send the required reports to the courts.
  • In case the case has a criminal nature, the case will be handled by the State government and tried in a criminal court.
  • After investigation, if the council finds that the hospital/doctor is at fault and has the power to endanger further lives, it may suspend the doctor’s/hospital’s license until a further enquiry is finished.
  • After a final report is finished, if the doctor or hospital is found to be guilty, a punishment will be decided after taking into account the nature and seriousness of the negligence.
  • In case the patient is dissatisfied with the efforts of the Council, he or she may appeal to the MCI.
  • If the patient is looking for monetary reimbursement, he or she may approach a consumer court, as they have the power to hand out money.
  • In case a patient is unhappy with the decision taken by the consumer court, he or she may approach a National Consumer Redressal Forum or may even go to the Supreme Court to seek a trial.

Evidence collection in medical negligence cases

  1. All the medical records pertaining to the case must be collected.
  2. As per the rules laid down by the MCI, every patient must receive a copy of their medical records, within 72 hours of requesting.
  3. With the evidence in hand, it is best if the patient sees another doctor to get a second opinion.
  4. Once the patient is sure that there was negligence from the doctor’s side, he or she may file an official complaint.

Challenges faced by victims

  • Takes enormous amounts of time to prove medical negligence.
  • The entire process is time-consuming and cumbersome. This results in the patient getting demotivated. 
  • The reputation of the doctor or hospital in question becomes very important, and this proves to have undue importance in such cases.
  • Doctors, once they realise, they were negligent, may eliminate evidence making it very difficult for the patient to prove the claim.
  • There aren’t many lawyers who are familiar with how such cases work, and what must be done to ensure victory.
  • Insurance companies reject pleas as the cost of litigation is too high to justify the claim.

Necessary tests 

A custom test is taken to prove that the doctor or hospital in question did not follow standard practices which should have been undertaken. The method adopted by the doctor/hospital must also be explained, and it should be proven that the approach followed was unethical.

There have been several instances of gross negligence and carelessness in the past in India. Such cases must be given their due importance to ensure that such mishaps do not happen in the future. The first step that must be taken is educating people on their rights, and ensuring that everyone’s best interests are protected. The medical profession is one that deserves a lot of respect and gratitude. We must ensure that a few rotten eggs don’t put the entire profession to shame. Doctors who misuse their position of power to further their greed and lust for money must be brought in front of the law, to ensure the safety of the general public.