Medical Negligence Cases Law India

Friday, 29 March 2013

Medical Negligence Cases under Consumer Protection Act.


Medical Negligence Cases under Consumer Protection Act
In The matter of:
Jacob Mathew vs State Of Punjab & Anothers
Held that:
(1) Negligence is the breach of a duty caused by omission to do something which a reasonable man guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. The definition of negligence as given in Law of Torts, Ratanlal & Dhirajlal (edited by Justice G.P. Singh), referred to hereinabove, holds good. Negligence becomes actionable on account of injury resulting from the act or omission amounting to negligence attributable to the person sued. The essential components of negligence are three: ‘duty’, ‘breach’ and ‘resulting damage’.
(2) Negligence in the context of medical profession necessarily calls for a treatment with a difference. To infer rashness or negligence on the part of a professional, in particular a doctor, additional considerations apply. A case of occupational negligence is different from one of professional negligence. A simple lack of care, an error of judgment or an accident, is not proof of negligence on the part of a medical professional. So long as a doctor follows a practice acceptable to the medical profession of that day, he cannot be held liable for negligence merely because a better alternative course or method of treatment was also available or simply because a more skilled doctor would not have chosen to follow or resort to that practice or procedure which the accused followed. When it comes to the failure of taking precautions what has to be seen is whether those precautions were taken which the ordinary experience of men has found to be sufficient; a failure to use special or extraordinary precautions which might have prevented the particular happening cannot be the standard for judging the alleged negligence. So also, the standard of care, while assessing the practice as adopted, is judged in the light of knowledge available at the time of the incident, and not at the date of trial. Similarly, when the charge of negligence arises out of failure to use some particular equipment, the charge would fail if the equipment was not generally available at that particular time (that is, the time of the incident) at which it is suggested it should have been used.
(3) A professional may be held liable for negligence on one of the two findings: either he was not possessed of the requisite skill which he professed to have possessed, or, he did not exercise, with reasonable competence in the given case, the skill which he did possess. The standard to be applied for judging, whether the person charged has been negligent or not, would be that of an ordinary competent person exercising ordinary skill in that profession. It is not possible for every professional to possess the highest level of expertise or skills in that branch which he practices. A highly skilled professional may be possessed of better qualities, but that cannot be made the basis or the yardstick for judging the performance of the professional proceeded against on indictment of negligence.
(4) The test for determining medical negligence as laid down in Bolam’s case [1957] 1 W.L.R. 582, 586 holds good in its applicability in India
Case at hand
Reverting back to the facts of the case before us, we are satisfied that all the averments made in the complaint, even if held to be proved, do not make out a case of criminal rashness or negligence on the part of the accused appellant. It is not the case of the complainant that the accused-appellant was not a doctor qualified to treat the patient whom he agreed to treat. It is a case of non- availability of oxygen cylinder either because of the hospital having failed to keep available a gas cylinder or because of the gas cylinder being found empty. Then, probably the hospital may be liable in civil law (or may not be  we express no opinion thereon) but the accused appellant cannot be proceeded against under Section 304A IPC on the parameters of Bolam’s test.
Result
The appeals are allowed. The prosecution of the accused appellant under Section 304A/34 IPC is quashed.
All the interlocutory applications be treated as disposed of.
Citation of the Case:
Supreme Court of India
Jacob Mathew vs State Of Punjab & Anr
Author: R Lahoti
Bench: R Lahoti, G Mathur, P.K.Balasubramanyan
CASE NO.:
Appeal (crl.) 144-145 of 2004
PETITIONER:
Jacob Mathew
RESPONDENT:
State of Punjab & Anr.
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/08/2005
BENCH:
CJI R.C. LAHOTI,G.P. MATHUR & P.K.BALASUBRAMANYAN
JUDGMENT:
J U D G M E N T
R.C. LAHOTI, CJI

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