The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it compulsory for private and government hospitals to take a patient’s consent before performing an additional surgery. A bench, comprising Justices BN Aggarwal, PP Naolekar and RV Raveendran, laid down guidelines for hospitals relating to “informed consent” and said it was pertinent to nurture the doctor-patient relationship.
The court’s directions came on the petition of a 44-year-old woman who had challenged a National Consumer Redressal Forum (NCRF) order. The NCRF had turned down her plea seeking compensation from a gynaecologist for removing her uterus and ovaries without consent.
Directing the gynaecologist to pay Rs 25,000 to the petitioner and waiving the surgery fees, the court said the doctor’s decision to conduct hysterectomy on her was unauthorised invasion and interference with her body. The court described the doctor’s act of performing the additional surgery as tortuous and an act of assault and battery. The bench, however, did not hold the doctor negligent but said her act amounted to deficiency in service.
The court laid down the following guidelines for the hospitals relating to consent.
n A doctor has to seek and secure the consent of the patient before commencing a treatment. The consent should be real and valid, which means that the patient should have the capacity and competence to consent. The patient should have adequate information concerning the nature of the treatment procedure.
n The adequate information to be furnished by the doctor who treats the patient should enable the patient to make a balanced judgment as to whether he should submit himself to the particular treatment or not.
n Consent given only for a diagnostic procedure cannot be considered as consent for therapeutic treatment. Consent given for a specific procedure will not be valid for conducting some other treatment procedure.
n There can be a common consent for diagnostic and operative procedures where they are contemplated. There can also be a common consent for a particular surgical procedure.
n The nature of information to be furnished by the doctor to secure the consent need not be of the stringent and high degree but should be of the extent which is accepted as normal and proper by a body of medical men.