Hospital, Not Doctor, Liable to Compensate Victims of Negligence, Rules Indian Consumer Panel

by Gopalan on  May 16, 2008 at 4:34 PM Medico Legal News
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 Hospital, Not Doctor, Liable to Compensate Victims of Negligence, Rules Indian Consumer Panel
An Indian consumer panel has held that it is the hospital that is liable to pay up victims of medical negligence and not the treating doctors.

 Unless the patient directly hires the services of a particular doctor, the onus of settling damages arising out of a lawsuit will not fall on the doctor, the Delhi Consumer commission said while ordering Apollo Hospitals to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for failing to perform a laparoscopic surgery properly.

In India the Consumer Commissions are quasi-judicial fora and their decisions are judicially enforceable.

 Delivery the judgment of the Delhi Commission, Justice J D Kapoor said: "Whenever a patient lands in any hospital, nursing home or medical centre, he is directly availing of the services of the said hospital...and not the treating doctor. Hence, if the patient suffers due to medical negligence or carelessness of the doctor, the liability will fall on the hospital." 
The complaint filed by a patient, Mohammed Azmal, claimed that he was admitted to the hospital in 1996 because of stomach pain. He was diagnosed with gallstones and told by the doctors that the gall bladder was to be removed through laparoscopy. Azmal agreed to undergo the procedure for a package deal of Rs 37,500.
But the doctor botched the keyhole surgery. An endoscopy report after the operation revealed a duct that was not sealed properly and resulted in accumulation of fluid in the stomach. Three more operations had to be performed on the patient whose condition had become critical. This raised the bill to almost Rs 1.6 lakh.
 In its defence, the hospital pleaded that the consulting doctor was not an employee of the hospital and the hospital was not responsible for any alleged negligence or deficiency in service in diagnosing and giving treatment on the part of the consultant doctor. It also pleaded the ailment required close investigation and detailed enquiry, hence there was no question of a package scheme.
 The hospital added the complainant was told that his gall bladder was inflamed due to a stone and therefore the lap chole method (laparascopic removal of the gall bladder) may not be feasible and conventional surgery would have to be done.
But the Consumer Commission rejected such arguments as unacceptable.

Source: Medindia

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The success of a hospital depends a lot on the quality of doctors and staff it hires. Neither of them can survive without the other. And a patients treatment can only see its full course when the hospital provides the right support for its doctors. And as promodpk said i do agree that you cant always generalize on cases. However i do feel that when there is some kind of malpractice or negligence both doctor and the hospital he/she is working in the hospital should be liable and not just the one party.

It is then up to the hospital and the disciplinary board to deiced how they would like to deal with the further employment of the doctor if he is truly guilty.

I think no generalizations can be made. It depends on the facts and circumstances of the case, how the matter is pleaded & argued before the court and how the court perceives the issues. Doctor and hospital, both perform material functions in the treatment of a patient. Generally, the corporate hospitals treat doctors like other 'tools' of their business but when something goes wrong, they tend to wriggle out of it. I think some clear guidelines are required to prevent ambiguities and confusions.

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