Government Hospitals constitutionally and ethically bound to provide medical assistance

Madras High Court: In a dispute regarding enhancement of monetary compensation for loss of life due to medical negligence, the Court came down heavily upon the grim state of affairs as regards to the treatment and operations conducted in government hospitals thereby resulting in deaths due to medical negligence, enhanced the monetary compensation to the petitioner.

In the instant case the petitioner’s wife met an untimely death after a family planning operation on account of septicemia due to the callous attitude of the surgeon and his staff. The post mortem report revealed the presence of pus and a swab pad. The petitioner counsel R. Subramanian stressed upon the poverty of the petitioner contending that the negligence of the doctor and his staff has taken away the life of the petitioner’s wife. The respondents represented by A.K. Selvakumar, Govt. Advocate however contended that the respondents have already paid compensation of Rs. 2,50,000  thus they are not entitled to pay further.

The Court took this opportunity to observe upon the fact that government hospitals are the only solution for those who cannot afford expensive treatments of the private hospitals and are also not aware of the medical complexities and terms therefore it is a legitimate expectation of every patient that the doctor takes sufficient care while performing operations or giving out treatments. Referring to Article 21 of the Constitution and Code of Medical Ethics drawn up under Section 33 of Indian Council of Medical Act, the Court stated that Government hospitals and their medical officers are constitutionally and professionally bound to provide medical assistance to preserve human life and failure of which amounts to violation of right to life. The Court therefore rightfully enhanced the compensation using the ‘Rule of Thumb’.  R. Shanmugakani v. The Govt. of Tamil Nadu, WP (MD) No. 13867 of 2011, decided on 08.08.2014

To read the full judgment, refer SCCOnLine

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