Coming to the rescue of doctors who are dragged to court on medical negligence charges, the Supreme Court restrained consumer forum and criminal courts from issuing notice to a doctor or hospital without receiving an expert committee’s report on the allegations leveled by the complainant.
A bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju said the guidelines were necessary “to avoid harassment to doctors.” With the new guidelines, doctors would now face proceedings in a court once an expert committee establishes a “prima facie case of medical negligence against him or the hospital.” The ruling would do away with the present practice of calling an expert to the court after summoning the doctor and during trial.
The bench also warned police officials not to “arrest or harass doctors unless the facts of the allegations come within the parameters laid down by SC in the Jacob Mathew’s case”. The SC in 2005 had stalled immediate arrest of doctors in medical negligence cases and had directed police not to proceed against any doctor without obtaining an independent and competent medical opinion.
The court was hearing the case of a Mumbai-based doctor on whom the the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had slapped a Rs 4 lakh fine pronouncing the doctor guilty of causing hearing loss to a patient. The SC gave the doctor a clean chit and waived the fine.