#WhatTheHealth: What can you do when you face medical negligence?
On October 24, 2013, US-based Dr. Kunal Saha famously won a compensation totaling Rs. 11 crore, 15 years after he had filed a case against Kolkata's AMRI Hospital, where his wife died because of medical negligence. If it took a doctor so long to successfully challenge his own fraternity, can those of us who aren't as aware or empowered dare hope for justice?
What is medical negligence? Is it a criminal offense?
Not every unsuccessful treatment amounts to medical negligence. Medicos are responsible only if they flout their duty and harm the patient either by not acting timely/appropriately or by engaging in wrongful practice. Moreover, medical recklessness is considered a criminal offense only when it results in a patient's death. Even then, the convict gets two years jail and/or a fine at the most.
What if you suffer recklessness but survive?
However, medical negligence doesn't always kill. Most often patients survive but are left with no life. What should you do then? Plead at a Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, gives every patient the right to sue doctors/hospitals. Though it won't land the accused in jail even if you win, it's quicker, easier, and will most likely get you a compensation.
Where to file a complaint?
Register your complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum if you are claiming a compensation for less than Rs. 20 lakh. The State Commission handles claims between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 1 crore. You need to approach the National Commission for claims exceeding Rs. 1 crore. Note: The Consumer Protection Act only covers monetary damages. It can't hold the accused criminally liable.
Awareness only way to spot, prevent dereliction of duty
You need to be aware of your rights as a patient to protect your family from instances of medical negligence or seek compensation if you have suffered them. Though the Indian law doesn't specifically recognize a patient's rights, a Code of Ethics Regulations, published by the Medical Council of India in 2002, details a physician's duties. They indirectly empower Indian patients with certain rights.
Know your rights
As a patient in India, you are entitled to: *Be told everything about your illness, treatment, the risks and side-effects involved *Be handled with efficiency and care, with special regard for your modesty *Know doctor's qualifications *Keep your illness confidential *Get a second opinion if needed *Be discharged or moved to another preferred facility after consulting the doctor For ignorance is hardly bliss, ever.
#WhatTheHealth: Stay informed. Protect your family
This is the second of a five-part series called #WhatTheHealth, running from December 25-29, 2017. Through each story, we discuss ways that can help you better navigate the Indian healthcare system. In the next, we focus on tools you can use to avoid being overcharged.