Consumer Protection Act and Medical Profession - Definitions

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Selected Provisions of The Consumer Protection Act 1986 Explained
( As Relevant to the Medical Profession )

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which came into force on 15th April,1987 is a welfare legislation mainly titling towards the consumer just as the Industrial Disputes Act is loaded in favour of workers. The aims and objects of the Act inter alia are,as given in its Preamble, better protection of the interests of the consumer and for settlement of consumer disputes. It provides for speedy and inexpensive settlement of disputes within a limited time frame, as against civil actions which are costly and take years in coming to a settlement. Provisions of the Act are in addition to and not in derogation of any other law for the time being in force and are compensatory in nature.

The Act envisages a three-tier quasi-judicial machinery , i.e.,District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum at the district level State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of the state level and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at the National level.

Recently, the Act has been amended by the Consumer Protection (Amendment) Act, 1993, w.e.f. 18.6.1993. We shall deal selectively with provisions of the Act which are relevant to the Medical Profession, as they exist as on today. The meaning of legal terms are being restricted to such terms only as concern the Medical Profession.

Definitions

Complainant means -

(i) a consumer ; or

(ii) any voluntary consumer association registered under the Companies Act, 1956 or under any other law for the time being in force; or

(iii) the Central Government or any State Government ;

(iv) one or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having the same interests ; who or which makes a complaint.

Complaint means - Any allegation, in writing made by a complainant that the services hired or availed of or agreed to be hired or availed of by him suffer from deficiency in any respect.

Consumer means - Any "person" who hires or avails of any services for a consideration which has been paid or promised or partly paid and partly promised and includes any beneficiary of such services other than the person who hires or avails of the services for consideration paid or promised,or partly paid and partly promised, or under any system of deferred payment, when such services are availed of with the approval of the first mentioned person.

Comment

Consideration means fees /payment. Fees may have been fully paid in cash or cheque, or undertaking that it will be paid, which is accepted by the doctor/hospital. The fees may have been given partly (as advance) with the understanding that the remaining bill will be paid subsequently. The payment may be done by the patient himself, or by someone else for the patient, e.g., father for his child, husband for wife, any person for someone.

A person who receives medical treatment in Government hospital or charitable hospital free of cost is not a consumer under the Act.

In case of death of patient who is a consumer, legal heirs (representatives) of the deceased will be considered as "consumer". If the payment has been made by any person who is not a legal heir of the deceased he too will be considered as "consumer."

The three words used above (deficiency, person, service) explained under this act are as follows :

Deficiency means - Any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature, and manner of the performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service.

Comment

Deficiency/negligence means fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in quality, nature and manner of performance of the medical service rendered by a hospital and /or member of the medical profession.

Person includes -

* a firm whether registered or not;
* a Hindu undivided family;
* a co-operative society
* every other association of persons whether registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or not.

Service means - Service of any description which is made available to potential users and includes the provision of facilities in connection with banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply of electrical or other energy, board of lodging or both, housing construction, entertainment, amusement or the purveying of news or other information but does not include the rendering of any service free of charge or under a contract of personal service.

Although medical profession has not been included under the term "service" but in many of the decided cases medical services have been deemed to be included in the definition of service in view of the expression ; ‘service means service of any description.’

Charge means - Fee / payments with element of profit making motive involved. As Government hospitals/certain charitable hospitals do not charge fees, hence such services rendered are exempted from this Act. In certain situations where hospitals are charging nominal stamp fees, contributions are made by Govt.employees to the CGHS , payments are made for cottage wards, diagnostic tests are done under auto-finance scheme, such services do not have any element of profit motive. Hence the persons availing of these services are not consumers and the services rendered do not fall under the Act, as there is no consideration paid for hiring of such services.

The second category of "service" exempt under this Act are those services which are rendered under a contract of personal service.

It has been held by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ( National Commission) on April 21,1992 in the case of Cosmopolitan Hospitals and Anr. v. Vasantha P. Nair [ 1 (1992) CPJ 302 (NC) ] that the medical treatment rendered to a patient by a private doctor or clinic for consideration is clearly a service falling within the ambit of section 2 (1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act. It is not a contract of personal service but a contract to render professional service. It is now well settled that hospital authorities rendering service for consideration are liable to the patient for injury caused by him by the negligence or other fault of the doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthetists and other members of the hospital in the course of their work. The liability of the hospital authorities extends to the faults of doctors and other employees whether their employment is permanent or temporary or casual, paid or honorary, whole or part-time as happens in the case of visiting physicians/surgeons.

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Kapil999 

I was appointed to run a clinic from a hospital facility. The management one day suddenly closed the premises, with all my belongings trapped inside, without giving me any notice. The treatment of many patients was under way and they feel lost. I have complained to police for cognizable offences and also written to the state medical bodies highlighting the manner in which the premises was shut down in my absence. Are any clauses of medical act violated in this sudden and unannounced closure of a medical facility? Dr K G

Rajeev2009 

I have booked two tickets under PNR no. 4408538575, for travelling from bangalore to delhi by 12213 duranto express on 27-06-2015. But on 23-06-2015 i have received a message regarding cancellation of train, then i called railway enquiry no. 139 in this regard and they told that train cancellation can only be confirmed on 27-06-2015 morning and also advised that i have not to cancel the ticket now but after departure time of the train i have to file the TDR online through irctc website. But when i open the site next day the ticket cancellation option said that it is too late too be cancelled and TDR option said that TDR can only be filled after charting and departure. So I could not cancel my tickets and contact the irctc helpline 011- 39340000 and they told to send an email in this regard on [email protected] and they issue me a Ticket No. 1686501, But they also refused the return on 12/07/2015 by saying that I have filled the TDR very late on 03/07/2015, which had to be filled within 72 hours of train departure time. As I have said earlier wihen I make cancellation of ticket irctc website refuse it and when I file TDR irctc site told that TDR can only be file after charting done and departure of train, no other method is describe there. The method of sending email is only come to know by me when I contacted irctc helpline. This is duty of Railway and Irctc to let the passenger know about the refund procedure in case of cancellation of train. So I want back all my money which is Rs.5636.17/- as train is cancelled by railway itself.

abhi0786 

I need suggestion regarding the doctors bill. Doctor is giving me bill for 17000 for 3 day for my wife's treatment. She was not admitted to the clinic, just for three days doctor given her 2 bottle of saline everyday. Doctor is having clinic not the hospital. Can you suggest what can i do?

chit123 

I want to complain against shiv medicos in H block ashok vihar for not giving proper bills for medicines purchased and also not verifying or asking for any prescription and seselling medicines without prescriptions...

nagercoil123 

This letter is with reference to the wrong or unwanted medical procedure and hiding the truth regarding my health. Dr. S.Selvamani, Senior Consultant and Interventional cardiologist [ Reg. No: 36009] done procedures like TPI CAG Successful PTCA with BVS (Bio Resorbable Vascular Scaffold) to RCA done on 18-19-2013. I was discharged on 28/09/2013 with the discharge summary as General Condition is GOOD and I thought that I had a single vessel block and that it was cleared by PTCA method and I can continue a normal life. After Discharge,( since the hospital is around 250 Km away from my home town ) I went to another cardiologist in my home town , He took ECHO and stated the extra points like Dialated LA/LV , Grade 3 Diastolic Dysfunction , Moderate PAH , Sclerotic aortic value and minimal effusion behind inferolateral wall , moderate to severe MR, posteriorly directed wall hugging jet ( MR dp/dt 982) and the Global EF is 33 % although Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai took ECHO they didn't reveled the above points in their discharge sheet and the cardiologist Dr.S.Selvamani ,didn't prescribed the medicines which will improve the EF % . Now I am taking T.Planeb, T.Cardarone and T. Cardace to improve the condition of the heart prescribed by an another cardiologist to improve the pumping capacity of the heart, which was failed by Dr. S. Selvamani. So I suspect that Dr. S. Selvamani didn't diagnosed or gave importance to the pumping capacity of my heart and he did wrong or unwanted procedure like PTCA and temporary pace maker installation. Dr. S. Selvamani, procedures makes me to spend around Rs.4,50,000 ( Rupees Four lacs and fifty Thousand ) at Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai and now I am spending more money on review and other lab and ECHO procedures to improve the EF% of my heart. I strongly believe that I have been treated wrong / unwanted procedures at Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai by Dr. S.Selvamani. I am ready to submit any medical documents and willing to go any more procedures to prove that I had been treated at Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai in unwanted or neglected medical procedures.

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