Justice remains elusive

If the pain of having been a victim of medical negligence was not enough, victim’s families run from pillar to post hoping for justice. Referred from one medical body to another, for many, it is a never-ending wait.

While their loved ones, who are victims of medical negligence, stare at a bleak future, the path to justice is strewn with several hurdles for the complainants to endure. In 2015, as many as 58 medical negligence cases were registered at the Karnataka Medical Council (KMC), a  body entrusted with the responsibility to maintain professional standards and discipline among medical practitioners. In 23 of these cases, an enquiry is still in progress.

While in a few cases, complainants fail to pursue the case and do not appear for hearing while in the others, doctors are not present. In 2016 as well, the figures were similar. Out of the 49 complaints that have been registered at KMC, 23 cases are said to be pending with enquiry under progress.

Fighting against a medical establishment means the complainants channelise their complaints to various departments, explains Jayna Kothari, a senior advocate fighting medical negligence cases. For those seeking justice against a doctor, complaints have to be raised at the
KMC, while those seeking compensation approach the consumer court and the others wanting legal action file a criminal case.

Hand in glove

Primary among the challenges that advocates face while fighting for victims is difficulty in finding someone to testify negligence. “It is tough to prove that there is negligence before the court because in many cases, there are no experts to testify. If we ought to prove medical negligence in a case, we need another medical expert to explain how the procedure had to be carried out ideally,” she told DH.

Kothari explains that several doctors refuse to appear before the court and speak against fellow practitioners making it a tough case to fight.

“For instance, there is a case of botched eye surgery. The victim lost vision in one eye following a surgical procedure. Because it is a subject of expertise, the court wanted another ophthalmologist to prove it. Many experts we approached refused to speak about the actual procedure,” she said. She also said that even as complaints are raised at the Karnataka Medical Council, it has been of little help to the victims as not enough is being done to give them justice.

“Family members must be given legal aid in such cases,” she said.

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