Chennai: A city civil court has held that government hospitals provide medical care at free of costs and medical officers employed therein are duty bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life, failing which negligence would be imputed to the act of the authority concerned.
XVII Additional City Civil Court Judge V.Thenmozhe who gave the ruling said, “It is needless to say that the free medical care is not covered by Consumer Protection Act. High level duty of care and responsibility on the part of the doctors as well as the administration is required in treating the patient in a government hospital. In Paramananth Kataria Vs.Union of India case, the Supreme Court held that every doctor of a government hospital or elsewhere has a professional obligation to extend his service with a due expertise for protecting life”.
Allowing a suit, the judge gave the ruling while awarding Rs 20 lakh compensation to a family, in which a 10 month old boy was tested HIV positive after the blood transfusion carried out by the Institute of
Child Health and Hospital for Children in Egmore.The judge said this is a case in which medical negligence has been attributed against the hospital for transfusion of HIV infected blood to the boy. The hospital is a government hospital. Therefore, it has to be seen what are all the obligations of the State in providing medical facilities to a citizen? Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees, protection of life and personal liberty to every citizen, the judge added.
The judge said Constitution of India guarantees every citizen's right to highest attainable standard of mental or physical health. Our Supreme Court held in Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs Union of India case, that right to live with human dignity enshrines in Article 21 derives its life breath from directive principles of state policy and includes health. In State of Punjab Vs Mohinder Singh Chawla case, the Apex court held that right to health was an integral to right to life and the government has constitutional obligation to provide the health facilities. In Common Cause Vs. Union of India case, the Supreme Court rendered guidelines for functioning of blood banks in our country. In the said case certain recommendations, suggestions and directions to the Union of India, All State governments and Union Territories were issued. Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Constitution of India also specifically provides for the right to health, the judge added.
The judge said health of a person is an integral part of his right to life. In Vincent Panikurlangara Vs. Union of India case, the apex court held that healthy body was a very foundation for all human activities and in a welfare state, it was an obligation of the State to ensure the creation and the sustaining of conditions congenial to good health.
It was a frequent complaint that government medical institutions were without provisions for adequate and properly qualified staff, equipments and maintenance arrangements. Because of the same, the people were forced to spend on private health care substantially, but the poor always depends upon the services of the government hospital, the judge added.
The judge said negligence was defined as the absence or lack of care that a reasonable person should have been taken in the circumstances of that particular case. Medical negligence does not involve intent. When a medical practitioner/doctor makes a mistake in treating a patient and that mistake results in harm to that patient was called medical negligence. To prove medical negligence the patient must show that the doctor acted negligently in rendering medical care and such negligence resulted in injury. The elements must be proved by the patient were professional duty owe to the patient, breach of such duty and injury caused by such breach.
In order to decide whether negligence was established, the alleged act-omission or course of conduct i.e., the subject of the case must be judged not by an ideal standards or formula but based on the background of the circumstances in which the treatment in question was given. The true test for establishing the negligence on the part of the doctor was as to whether he has been proven guilty of such failure as no doctor with ordinary skills would be guilty of acting with reasonable care, the judge added....