Doctors can't be fastened with fault for each death: SC

Doctors can't be fastened with fault for every death: SC

The court further said it is too much to expect from a doctor to remain at the bedside of the patient throughout his stay in the hospital

Representative Image. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said no doctor can assure life to his patient but can only attempt to treat to the best of his ability and if the patient does not survive, the fault cannot be fastened on doctors as a case of medical negligence.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian allowed an appeal filed by Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre against the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's order to pay Rs 14.18 lakh to Asha Jaiswal and others for the death of patient Dinesh Jaiswal due to medical negligence.

The patient, who was admitted to the hospital on April 22, 1998, breathed his last on June 12, 1998. The hospital charged him Rs 4.08 lakh for the treatment. The family members alleged after the patient's gangrene operation, there was negligence as the doctor who performed the surgery was on a foreign visit and the emergency operation theatre was not available.

After going through case records and arguments, the bench said, "It is a case where the patient was in a serious condition even before admission to the hospital but even after surgery and re-exploration, if the patient does not survive, the fault cannot be fastened on the doctors as a case of medical negligence."

The court further said it is too much to expect from a doctor to remain at the bedside of the patient throughout his stay in the hospital which was being expected by the complainant here.

A doctor is expected to provide reasonable care which is not proved to be lacking in any manner, the court added.

The mere fact that the doctor had gone abroad can't lead to inference of medical negligence, it said.

The court noted a team of specialist doctors attended to the patient but nature unfortunately had the last word.

"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," it said.

The court rejected a contention of the complainant that since surgery was performed by a doctor, he alone would be responsible for different aspects of the treatment to the patient, terming it as "an incorrect assumption".

"In the present era of super-specialisation, one doctor is not a solution for all problems of a patient. Each problem is dealt with by an expert in the concerned field and that is what is apparent from the medical record," it said.

Declaring that the Commission's findings holding the Hospital and the doctor guilty of medical negligence were not sustainable in law, the bench said a sum of Rs five lakh disbursed to the complainant as per interim order would be treated as ex gratia payment to her.

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