‘Due to financial reasons, if treatment is refused, it would be against the very basic tenets of the medical profession and the concept of charity in whatever form we envisage the same, besides being unconstitutional would be violative of basic human rights.’
In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has observed that members of the medical profession owe a constitutional duty to treat the have-nots and that they cannot refuse to treat a person who is in dire need of treatment by a particular medicine or by a particular expert merely on the ground that he is not in a position to afford the fee payable for such an opinion/treatment.
Allowing the appeals preferred by Union of India, a bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit set aside the Delhi High Court order that had quashed the circular issued by the Government of NCT of Delhi.
The bench also directed all the hospitals in Delhi built on subsidized land to scrupulously observe the conditions imposed by the government circular including that to provide free treatment to 10% indoor patients and 25% outdoor patients of poor strata of the society.
Inhuman to deny proper treatment to the poor owing to economic condition.
In his 124-paged judgment, Justice Arun Mishra made some piquant observations about medical profession and ethics.
Upholding the circular, the bench observed that when the government land had been obtained for the charitable purpose of running the hospital, the government is within its right to impose such an obligation. The bench further added that such stipulation for free treatment does not amount to restriction under Article 19(6) on the right enshrined under Article 19(1)(g) and even otherwise it was not necessary to enact a statutory provision by the Government in view of existing liability as per policy/rules/statutory provisions as to ethical standards and other statutory provisions in force.
Observing that there has been resistance from the part of hospital management to wholesome policy violation of the conditions in the circular, the bench directed the government direct to file a periodical report within a period of one year with respect to compliance of conditions by the hospitals and other similar hospitals in Delhi.