Doctors Can’t Be Always Blamed For Negligence In Deaths, Says SC

NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court has said that a hospital cannot be held liable for negligence if operation of a patient is delayed because of non-availability of operation theatres and ruled that doctors also cannot be always blamed if a patient did not favourably respond to treatment or a surgery failed.

Setting aside the order National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which held Bombay Hospital & Medical Research Centre and its doctors liable for medical negligence for death of a patient, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said that the fault cannot always be fastened on the doctors and hospital if a patient did not survive.

It said that delay in conducting some medical test due to fault in machine can also not be said to be negligence on the part of the doctor or the hospital, saying “Any machine can become non-functional because of innumerable factors beyond the human control as the machines involve various mechanical, electrical and electronic components”

“No fault can be attached to the Hospital if the operation theatres were occupied when the patient was taken for surgery. Operation theatres cannot be presumed to be available at all times. Therefore, non-availability of an emergency operation theatre during the period when surgeries were being performed on other patients is not a valid ground to hold the Hospital negligent in any manner,” the bench said.

The bench said that in this case the patient was in serious condition impending gangrene even before admission to the hospital and if the patient did not survive after surgery and re-exploration, the fault cannot be fastened on the doctors as a case of medical negligence and turned down the plea of the family member of the deceased who blamed the hospital for the death.

“There is a tendency to blame the doctor when a patient dies or suffers some mishap. This is an intolerant conduct of the family members to not accept the death in such cases. The increased cases of manhandling of medical professionals who worked day and night without their comfort has been very well seen in this pandemic,” it said.

The court said that a team of specialist doctors was available and attended to the patient and there was no proof of any negligence and set aside the commission order for compensation of Rs 14 lakh to the patient’s family. “The family may not have coped with the loss of their loved one, but the Hospital and the Doctor cannot be blamed as they provided the requisite care at all given times. No doctor can assure life to his patient but can only attempt to treat his patient to the best of his ability which was being done in the present case as well,” it said.


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