According to a report by the World Health Organization, in India one in 10 hospital admissions leads to an adverse event and one in 300 admissions in death. Increase in medical negligence cases is largely attributed to awareness of medical knowledge, rights of patients and also the rise in medical cost. It is not the doctors alone who are responsible but rather the hospital, nurses, consultants, service providers and the like.
Initially the paper deals with the issue of doctors prescribing medicines without personal examination. The principles of Patient Autonomy and Right to Self Determination govern the modern medical ethics. This can lead to the fear of legislation in doctors. The essence of this kind of legislation takes root from Art. 21 which guarantees the “Right to Life” of the citizen. The doctor can further be held liable under Sec. 304A, 320 and 80 of IPC. The number of healthcare seekers have drastically increased in India as opposed to the diminishing number of qualified medical personnel. This has increased the workload of the doctors. In such a situation the doctor should at least have the freedom to prescribe a temporary relief to the patient based on the symptoms without having to personally examine him.
Though India produces about 50,000 medical practitioners a year, there seems to be a problem of lack of qualified staff to assist the doctor, who are capable enough to handle trivial matters which is the second issue the paper deals with.
Furthermore, the paper throws light on the complexities of handling emergency cases in the hospital. In USA there exist certain enactments such as EMTALA and COBRA which guarantee medical attention to all who arrive at an emergency department. In India, we have recognized a rule that a failure on the part of any hospital to provide timely medical treatment is a violation of a person’s Right to Life. However, the extent to which this rule is complied with is a matter of fact.
The next problem the medical field faces are a lack of Primary Health Centers and pre-medical assistance. As on 31st March 2014, at an all-India level there are 25020 Primary Health Centers (PHCs) functioning which is far below the required number. In 2013, the Automotive Industry Standard Committee in India deliberated on the pathetic condition of ambulances in the State. There is no standardization for ambulance design and the ambulance specifications are written by medical specialists who cannot translate the user requirement to automobile terminology. The existing laws also allow goods vehicles to be treated as ambulances.
These issues are not without solution. Why does India remain backward in meeting the basic needs of the society? Citizens are the wealth of the Nation and their health should be given utmost importance. The Government should improve on the already existing laws and take up the suggestions put forward by various Law Commissions and Committees to handle this situation successfully.