[Answered] Critically examine the legal provisions related to medical negligence in India. How does the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023, impact the accountability and protection of medical practitioners?

Introduction: Define medical negligence.

Body: Highlight legal provisions related to medical negligence in India and their impact on doctors.

Conclusion: Way forward

Medical negligence is the term used to describe when a healthcare provider or medical professional violates their duty of care and causes harm, injury, or death to a patient. In India, complaints involving medical malpractice are usually filed as civil lawsuits in the relevant court, seeking damages. If a patient dies as a result of a healthcare professional’s negligence, in certain situations, criminal charges may also be brought against them.

Provisions related to medical negligence in India

  • Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002: These guidelines outline the duties and responsibilities of medical practitioners, including the need to obtain informed consent from patients, maintain medical records, and adhere to medical ethics.
  • Consumer Protection Act of 2019: This important piece of legislation protects the rights of customers, including those who are looking for medical services. The Act offers a legal path to compensation in the event of medical malpractice and inadequate medical care.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC): Sections 304A and 337-339 of the IPC deal with offenses related to causing death or harm by a rash or negligent act, including those committed by medical professionals. These sections may be invoked in cases of criminal negligence.

Impact of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023 on accountability and protection of medical practitioners:

  • Less severe punishment: Under the BNS, the punishment for causing accidental death (like road traffic death) was increased to a maximum of five years while if such an act is committed by a medical practitioner during a medical procedure shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to a fine. This provision allows the same penalty that was specified under Section 304(A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Accountability: The newly drafted bill takes note of Jacob Mathew vs the State of Punjab & Anr. (2005) which lays down the accountability of medical practitioners in cases of medical negligence. The case highlights a framework that focuses on professional standards and the importance of medical ethics, the opinion of experts to establish negligence, and establishing principles of defining “gross” negligence leading to criminal liability.

Conclusion

The new bill instills confidence in doctors, especially in critical situations, eliminating the fear of imprisonment and allowing them to take calculated risks which is beneficial for the doctor-patient relationship making it a positive development for public health.

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