Thursday, 15 December 2016


Medical Negligence – The Downfall of General medicine

Medical profession is one of the most reputed professions in the world as we know and  doctors are considered as gods because they save our lives.

It is sad to say that hospitals in the state, and all over India, have become money generating machines for many doctors, while the patients have become their commodities. There are many doctors who are working in private hospitals while they are actually supposed to be serving in Government hospitals. It is a serious matter that in order to make profit, doctors make patients undergo unnecessary clinical tests at the private centres, even though the government hospitals are equipped with laboratory facilities. In corporate hospitals, each patient may be seen by multiple specialists. An orthopaedic surgeon is called because the hands and feet are aching; a neurologist for numbness in the hands. They come and look at the patient and their charges are added to the bill. Here investigations are not based on what the patient’s illness is, and whether there is a need for specific investigations. Given any complaint, they produce a list of investigations that must be done.  Is it useful for multiple specialists to examine a patient? This question is never even asked. In many private medical colleges, the students only see a few patients, and even fewer from the poorer sections. How will they develop social sensitivity? There is a need to appoint a welfare officer who can advise the patient parties about the cost involved and other clinical testing required for a particular treatment.

A Medical Nightmare 
Recently, a hospital was under scrutiny for committing medical negligence.  The following is our case report on the incident.

CHILDLINE Trivandrum received complaint from a young couple regarding medical negligence. The mother was consulting the gynaecologist in a reputed hospital in the city. The first scan, as instructed by the hospital was taken in the hospital itself. The baby’s condition was reported good. They were very much content with the treatment provided by the experts in the hospital.  The next two scans were completed as per instructions from the hospital and the child’s condition was reported to be good.  In the seventh month the couple decided to take a scan elsewhere before the scheduled scan at the hospital and  the scan revealed absolutely terrifying results, as the baby was found multiple abnormalities and no procedure could correct them. The most flinching of them all was the undeveloped testis and absence of ovaries. This made the sex determination of the child almost impossible.    

The baby was born with many abnormalities such as microcephaly, cleft palate (breast feeding not possible), retrognathia, upper limb anomalies, undescended testis, hairy forehead and so on. The parents left the child at the hospital in the first week of October, 2016 for the treatment of deformities. On the same day evening, we informed SHO of the local station, who in turn contacted the General Manager (Administration) of the hospital. The hospital authorities contacted us requesting immediate intervention to transfer the baby to a higher centre for special care. They stated that unless the baby was shifted to a higher centre for proper care, the life of the baby might become endangered. The next day, CHILDLINE Team visited the hospital and enquired about the matter and their formalities under progress. The case was forwarded to CWC and Child Rights Commission with the written complaint of the mother citing medical negligence. An expert team was sent to examine the situation at the hospital. Now, the commission has ordered the hospital to look after the baby. The mother visits the child daily but has no option to take it home, as they are financially weak and cannot facilitate the treatment.  

What is Medical Negligence?
Public awareness of medical negligence in India is growing. Hospital managements are increasingly facing complaints regarding the facilities, standards of professional competence, and the appropriateness of their therapeutic and diagnostic methods. After the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, has come into force some patients have filed legal cases against doctors, have established that the doctors were negligent in their medical service, and have claimed and received compensation. As a result, a number of legal decisions have been made on what constitutes negligence and what is required to prove it.

Medical malpractice can take many forms. Here are some examples of medical negligence that one might encounter:
·        Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
·        Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
·        Unnecessary surgery
·        Surgical errors or wrong site surgery
·        Improper medication or dosage
·        Poor follow-up or aftercare
·        Premature discharge
·        Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history
·        Failure to order proper testing
·        Failure to recognize symptoms

It is important to know what constitutes medical negligence. A doctor owes certain duties to the patient who consults him for illness. A deficiency in this duty results in negligence. A basic knowledge of how medical negligence is adjudicated in the various judicial courts of India will help a doctor to practice his profession without undue worry about facing litigation for alleged medical negligence.