Law on Medical Negligence | When can a doctor be summoned for criminal charges relating to medical negligence? Patiala House Courts explains

Patiala House Courts, New Delhi: While addressing a case of medical negligence Prayank Nayak, MM-01, expressed that doctors can be summoned for negligence only if the negligence is gross or the doctors did not possess the requisite skill required for the treatment

Complainant sought summoning of accused namely Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya, Hospital, New Delhi, CMO, Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya, Hospital and Dr Dinesh, Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya Hospital for offence punishable under Sections 270, 272, 326, 336, 338 of Penal Code, 1860.

Victim was aged about 3 months when she developed fever, cough and bronco pneumonia for which she sought treatment at OPD of RML. She was administered antibiotics and infusion intravenously. It was alleged that due to faulty administration of injection in a rash and negligent manner, victim developed gangrene.

After her examination by several doctors, her right hand had to be amputated from the wrist down. Hence it was stated that due to the negligence, commissions, and illegal omission of RML Hospital and its doctors they were liable to be punished under Sections 269, 270, 326 and 338 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).

Analysis, Law and Decision

Law on Medical Negligence and Criminal Liability

Court expressed that the law of the land on the above stated was summed up in the decision of Supreme Court in Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab, (2005) 6 SCC 1,

“…To prosecute a medical professional for negligence under criminal law it must be shown that the accused did something or failed to do something which in the given facts and circumstances no medical professional in his ordinary senses and prudence would have done or failed to do. The hazard taken by the accused doctor should be of such a nature that the injury which resulted was most likely imminent.”

 Delhi High Court in Hukam Chand v. State, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 4129, held that:

“6. Thus to proceed against a doctor the complainant is required to, even at the stage of summoning, prima facie show that the negligence is of such a kind that either the doctor was not processed of the requisite skills which he professed to possess or the negligence and recklessness was of a high degree which could be termed as gross.”

 Hence, Court expressed those doctors can be summoned for negligence only if the negligence is gross or the doctors did not possess the requisite skill required for the treatment.

However, in the present matter, there was nothing on record to show that the treating doctors were grossly negligent while treating the victim. Even the Committee of the doctors did not mention that there was any negligence on the part of the treating doctors.

In Delhi High Court’s decision of Dr A.K. Banerji v. State, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 2322, while dealing with a criminal revision in a matter relating to medical negligence where the victim’s hand had to be amputated, held that since the Medical Council of India had opined that there was no negligence on the part of the treating doctor, summoning order of the magistrate for offence punishable under Section 338 IPC was liable to be set aside.

Bench held that since no sanction under Section 197 CrPC had been obtained, the doctors could not be summoned for the charges of medical negligence.

On finding no grounds for proceeding against the hospital and treating doctors arrayed as accused, the complaint was dismissed under Section 203 CrPC. [Gudia v. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, CC No. 18745 of 2016, decided on 12-10-2021]

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