Compensation worries nag medical fraternity

The recent Supreme Court verdict awarding a Rs 5.96-crore compensation in a medical negligence case involving a Kolkata hospital seems to have brought about tension within the medical fraternity.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) and Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) came together at a press conference here on Wednesday stating that if such hefty compensations were slapped on hospitals and medical practitioners, patients will have to bear the brunt.

“On the one hand, the government wants to promote medical tourism, wanting foreigners to avail of our facilities. On the other hand, there is foreign exchange fluctuation. We are not demanding that cases of medical negligence be ignored, but at least, there should be a cap on compensation,” said Dr Devi Shetty, Treasurer, AHPI.

“If the verdict in the Kolkata case had come out in 1998, the compensation sum would have been less than Rs two crore. The policy makers should remember that we are still a developing country and must see whether the person or organisation is financially capable to pay the given compensation.

 If this continues, doctors will begin practising defensive medicine by leaving no loose ends. Without doubt, medical costs will go up significantly and it will eventually burden the patient,” Shetty said.

The forums said the apex court verdict had caused much confusion and turbulence among medical practitioners. The highest compensation awarded earlier was of Rs 1.6 crore.

“How is the hospital responsible in such cases? The consultant is responsible, since he/she is the one who prescribes the medicine,” said Dr Ramadev, president, PHANA. “We need a balanced perspective on such issues. People only look at one side of the story most times,” Ramadev added.

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