Doctors May Get Some Relief from Consumer Protection Act

Doctors May Get Some Relief from Consumer Protection Act

New Delhi, October 16:  Doctors may not have to look at all of their patients as potential litigants, as ones who might some day drag them to court. There seems to be a change in thinking regarding this in the present government. Mukul Rohtagi, Attorney General of India, indicated as much while inaugurating Perfect Health Mela in Talkatora Stadium. He averred that doctors should be given some respite from the consumer court dragnet.

Answering the question raised by Dr. K.K.Aggarwal, Secretary General (elect) of Indian Medical Association (IMA), the biggest organization of doctors in India, regarding doctors being hamstrung by Consumer Protection Act, Mukul Rohtagi said, ‘ Treatment is in the category of consumer service, so it is difficult to keep it out of consumer protection act. This is a service on which life depends. It any negligence happens, it must undoubtedly be actionable. But courts not being armed fully with medical and clinical knowledge, doctors are going through much of unnecessary harassment. This must stop.’

He further said, ‘Medical negligence must not be equated with normal events of negligence.’ He mooted the idea of presenting the case of negligence first in front of a medical board before declaring a doctor outright a criminal. He also indicated that the present government may move towards bringing an amendment to the consumer protection act to give doctors some reprieve from unnecessary harassment due to ill founded allegations.

Dr. Aggarwal, also the president of Heart Care Foundation of India, which has organized 5 days health mela, had said before Rohtagi, that doctors should not come under the ambit of Consumer Protection Act. If they have to be there, doctors may demand right to advertize themselves. He is also of the view that this act has deteriorated doctor-patient relationship, which is not good for any of them.

Though era of ambulance chasing lawyers like USA is yet to come in India but doctors fear it may not be very long before it begins in India too. The award of a whopping 5.9 crore (11 crore with interest taken together) compensation by Supreme Court recently, first of this kind cin India, in a case fought for long 15 years by an NRI Dr. Kunal Saha, has rattled the doctors community. Dr. Saha had filed a case of negligence in the treatment of his wife in Calcutta.

Rohtagi said, ‘Right to life is a fundamental right- right of living a dignified and healthy life. This right is enforceable against the government. But the problem is government aid to ensure this is not enough. This has facilitated the entry of private sector in health, so cost is exorbitant and beyond the capacity of middle class. This void is to be filled by NGO which is what Heart Care Foundation has been doing from 25 years.’ Rohtagi advocated healthy life style being inculcated from schools. Referring to PM Modi’s slogan, he said, ‘It is a unique year when Swachha (clean) and Swastha (health) is together.’

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