14 Aug 2023 3:47 AM GMT
The Madras High Court has recently noted that a hospital's failure to provide information pertaining to the treatment given to a patient would amount to professional misconduct and would result in tortious liability as it infringes the patient's right."Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes within its sweep the right to receive information. Obviously, a patient is entitled to invoke...
The Madras High Court has recently noted that a hospital's failure to provide information pertaining to the treatment given to a patient would amount to professional misconduct and would result in tortious liability as it infringes the patient's right.
"Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes within its sweep the right to receive information. Obviously, a patient is entitled to invoke this right. In any event, following the promulgation of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the government hospitals can no longer withhold information from the patients or their attendants. Withholding would amount to professional misconduct and result in tortious liability as it constitutes an infringement of the patients' rights," the court observed.
Calling for digital maintenance of records, Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench also noted that a patient's right to get all relevant records pertaining to his or her treatment can be effectuated only if the medical records are maintained digitally.
"We have moved into the digital age. It should therefore not be difficult to store all the information in the digital mode. A patient is entitled to be furnished all the relevant records pertaining to his or her treatment. This right can be effectuated only if the information is stored digitally. Proper maintenance of record is an integral part of the medical services," the court said.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Jothi seeking action against the Doctor and the Duty Nurse of Government Hospital for medical negligence and for compensation to the tune of Rs. 15,00,000/-.
Jothi informed the court that on May 18, 2014 she delivered a female child after being admitted to Government Hospital Mudukulathur but since the baby developed asphyxia, both of them were referred to Government Hospital, Paramakudi and later to Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai. She submitted that even though proper treatment was given, the baby died on May 20, 2014.
She contended that the baby died due to medical negligence and that the baby was already born dead, to avoid controversy, they kept sending the mother and the baby to different hospitals. It was also submitted that if caesarean operation was done, the baby's life could have been saved. It was also submitted that though medical records were sought, the same were withheld.
The court did not find merit in the submission that the baby had already died and that if caesarean was done, the baby's life could be saved. The court noted that every gynaecologist's endeavour would be to deliver the baby normally and merely because of an untoward outcome, the doctors could not be blamed.
"The endeavour of any gynaecologist would be to see if the child can be delivered in the normal mode unless there are some features which make caesarian operation necessary…I may add that even among the general public, the desire as well as prayer is that there must be normal delivery. Merely because of the untoward outcome, the doctors cannot be blamed with the benefit of hindsight," the court said.
However, the court noted that if ventilator support was available at the hospital, Jothi and the baby would not have been forced to travel long distance to get admitted in another hospital. The court also noted that the hospital management's failure to furnish the patient's information infringed the patient's right.
"The failure to furnish information by the authorities of G.H, Mudukulathur does constitute an infringement of the petitioner's right. If ventilator support had been available at Paramakudi, the petitioner need not have been forced to travel long distance to get admitted at Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai. I can imagine the physical strain the petitioner who had just then delivered a baby would have undergone. Any government hospital should be equipped with the basic infrastructural facilities and a patient can legitimately expect that they are available and functional. It is unfortunate that ventilator support was not available at Paramakudi," the court observed.
Thus, on these two grounds, the court held that Jothi was entitled to compensation and ordered State to pay compensation to the tune of Rs.75000/- within 8 weeks of the order.
Case Title: Jothi v The State and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 227
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.K.R.Laxman
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.D.Gandhiraj
Special Government Pleader, Mr.K.Appadurai, Mr.K.C.Ramalingam