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Bengaluru: 25 medical negligence FIRs since 2015, not one conviction

Among the cases were botched cataract surgeries at the government-run Minto Eye Hospital in 2019. Some cases resulting in deaths were reported from private hospitals.
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 00:36 IST

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Bengaluru: Proving a case of medical negligence could be way harder than you think even if it results in death. 

Of the 25 FIRs registered in Bengaluru since 2015, not a single person has been convicted of medical negligence. At least 10 cases were thrown out. And hearing has been "extraordinarily delayed" in the remaining 15. Nine of these 15 cases resulted in patients' deaths, data reviewed by DH shows. 

The figures are skewed because the police do not have the powers to investigate medical negligence under the Karnataka Medical Registration Act. The job is instead carried out by a 16-member board of medical experts under the auspices of the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC), a quasi-judicial body. Fifteen members are drawn from the medical field. The lone observer is a senior judiciary member. 

Police can file the charge sheet only after seeking the board's opinion. In the absence of a stipulated deadline, the board takes years to investigate the case. 

Between 2015 and 2021, Bengaluru police registered 25 medical negligence cases under IPC Section 304A (causing death to negligence) or CrPC Section 174 (unnatural death). Twelve cases were filed between 2015 and 2021. One case each was filed in the last three years. 

Among the cases were botched cataract surgeries at the government-run Minto Eye Hospital in 2019. Some cases resulting in deaths were reported from private hospitals. 

Across Karnataka, 319 such cases were filed with the KMC board or referred by courts. 

A senior police officer following up on the cases in Bengaluru suggested that the KMC board was "deliberately" delaying the proceedings in an attempt to tire complainants out. 

"When frustrated complainants stop appearing for hearings, the board throws out the case," the official told DH, requesting anonymity. 

According to police, victims are denied justice because there is no transparency in the system. The board should include police investigators to ensure transparency.  

Sujatha M Rudresh was the complainant in the Minto Eye Hospital case. Her husband and 12 others lost temporary or permanent eyesight after the botched surgeries. 

"Until last year, I used to get notices about the hearing but not any more. It has been almost five years since the incident but we are still waiting for justice," she told DH amid sobs. 

A man in his late 30s, who lost his mother due to alleged medical negligence, said conditions were unfavourable to complainants like him. 

"When I attend hearings, the respondent (doctor) in my case exchanges pleasantries with all board members and shakes hands with them. How do I trust the board," he asked. 

Medical Education Minister Sharanprakash Patil says his department has no say in the proceedings because the KMC is an independent, quasi-judicial body. 

According to health minister Dinesh Gundu Rao, the government's role is limited to appointing one person to the KMC board. 

Former KMC president Dr Kanchi Prahlad argued that the delays were because respondents and complainants often do not cooperate. 

"We also had Covid in between, and then our election controversy came up. But the delay is mainly because the stakeholders fail to attend the hearings," he said. 

Dr Yogananda Reddy, current KMC president, said complainants and respondents often do not attend the hearings, which are conducted only on Saturdays. 

Reddy insisted that the KMC was "completely approachable" and had no "hostile" conditions. 

According to him, all cases are technical, and the board tends to use medical jargon, which might "intimidate" some people. 

He, however, acknowledged that there was a scope for improvement in some areas and promised to make changes as soon as possible. He said the board would provide legal aid to victims, appoint a person to assist complainants and fast-track the process.

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Published 08 July 2024, 00:36 IST

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