Dated: June 25, 2018
It is paramount for us to know the laws and regulations that bind doctors and patients alike. Here are the laws that concern health care by medical professionals in India and are the same conditions you agree to at the time of admission to a hospital, nursing home or private clinic.
Healthcare laws in India |Photo Credit: Representative Image
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda on June 19 of this year released the National Health Profile, 2018. The profile asserted that India's per capital expenditure on healthcare is among the lowest in the world adding that the government spends as low as Rs 3 per day on each citizen. Such low public-health spending is perhaps what has driven a large percentage of the population to opt for private healthcare.
Since more and more citizens prefer private healthcare and the ones making use of public healthcare are not doing so by choice, it gets easy for hospitals, nursing homes, and private clinics to shrug responsibility in the case of a mishap. It is, therefore, paramount for us to know the laws and regulations that bind doctors and patients alike.
It is important for us to know that most sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) do not effectively apply to medical professionals. It is so because common belief illustrates that a doctor imparts treatment in good faith and with the consent of the patient. This precedence is overlooked only when it is proven that a doctor has acted with gross negligence unfitting of his position. However, here are the laws that concern health care by medical professionals in India and are the same conditions you agree to at the time of admission to a hospital, nursing home or private clinic.
With respect to healthcare, section 271 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the spread of infectious disease which amounts to a violation of the quarantine rule. This law roughly states that the onus to keep surroundings clean and hygienic so as to avoid the spread of any infectious disease falls on the medical establishment.
If a medical professional's intentional actions cause the death of any of his patients, the medical professional will be considered guilty of murder under Section 307 of the IPC. The accused can be sentenced for up to ten years in prison along with a monetary fine. In extreme cases, the punishment can even be extended up to imprisonment for life.
Section 314 of the Indian Penal Code deals with death caused by act done with the intent to cause miscarriage. This section concerns anyone including a medical professional, who commits an act with the intention of causing miscarriage which may lead to the death of the woman. The punishment for this act may be a prison sentence for up to ten years or a fine or both. However, if the act is done without the woman's consent, the punishment is imprisonment for life.
In the context of healthcare services, sections 319-322 deal with fault, imperfection or inadequacy in quality of vision or hearing. These laws also deal with grievous hurt or disfigurement. If a medical professional who has been contracted to offer his/her services is found in violation of these sections, the professional can be asked to pay a hefty monetary fine. If the claim is less than Rs 20 lakh, the case is handled by the district commission. Cases with claims more than Rs 20 lakh but less than Rs 1 crore are handled by the state commission. The national commission takes up the case if the value of the claim is more than Rs 1 crore.
Section 304-A of the IPC deals with death by negligence, in this context, the negligence of a medical professional. This law states that if a medical professional causes the death of a person by performing a rash or negligent act, the act will amount to culpable homicide. Punishment for this act can be imprisonment for up to two years or a fine or both.