COVID-19 has brought the nations Health Care Sector under the spotlight. Right from beating plates for our doctors to beating our doctors, we have seen it all. We have witnessed a hike in the number of medical negligence law suits. This rise is partly due to the inadequate infrastructure, and partly due to the inadequate skills and outdated knowledge of healthcare professionals.
A recent video has gained national attention for the nerve-wracking revelations that it made. This case highlights both the inadequate infrastructure and the inadequate skills of the healthcare professionals.
In the video referred to above, the owner of the Shri Paras Hospital is seen dictating the events that followed on the morning of 26 April. Here he alleges that the largest supplier of Agra had informed him that there was a shortage of oxygen supplies and that the stock would last only till the next morning.
He goes on to say that, he informed the patients about the situation and had asked them to make other arrangements. The patients however refused to do so. After which he decided to do an experiment. At this point there were 97 patients, and they wanted to segregate the ones who were critical and needed oxygen.
He further says that on the morning of 26 April, at around 7 A.M the hospital conducted a mock drill, wherein the oxygen supply was cut off for about 5 minutes. Following which 22 patients turned blue and were left gasping for air.
They then asked the remaining 55 patients to either move to a different hospital or make other arrangements.
Since the video went viral, the owner has denied all allegations and has gone on record to say that “22 patients did not die that day, it’s a lie”. The state government has also stated that 22 patients did not die. Regardless of the number, deaths did occur, and therefore the hospital has been sealed and its license is temporarily suspended. A probe is being conducted to look into what actually happened that morning.
Following a written complaint filed by Deputy chief medical officer Dr. RK Agnihotri. A case has been filed under Sections 188 and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 52 and 54 of the Disaster Management Act, and Section 3 of the Epidemic Act, against the medical staff and the hospital.
What actions can the patients take in such situations?
In situations like these the patients can approach the Medical Council of India (MCI) to have the medical license of the Hospital and doctor cancelled. MCI upon receiving the complaint will hold an inquiry. The police also may move forward on this basis.
Since The Supreme Court decision in Indian Medical Association v. V P Shantha brought the medical profession within the ambit of a ‘service’ as defined in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The aggrieved patients may also approach the Consumer Forums for the Deficiency in services provided by the Hospital and Doctor.
In case those patients really did die then the third option is criminal liability. In i Hussein Mohammedali Rangawalla v. State of Maharashtra the court held that if a person dies due to the negligence of a hospital or doctor, then in such cases, action can be taken under section 304-A of the IPC.
Section304 Causing death by negligence.—”Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
Indian law grants us many rights and various actions can be taken in cases of negligence. In this case the police have proceeded against the hospital under the Epidemic Disease Act. This act empowers the government to take actions against those who violate rules during the pandemic.
About the Author – Aditya Pratap
Aditya Pratap is a lawyer practising in Mumbai. He argues cases in the Bombay High Court, Sessions and Magistrate Courts, along with appearances before RERA, NCLT and the Family Court. For further information one may visit his website adityapratap.in or view his YouTube Channel to see his interviews. Questions can be emailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Article is made by Aditya Pratap in assistance with Karthyayani Amblimath.
Cases argued by Aditya Pratap can be viewed here.
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and how they may affect a case.