`Doc not responsible if patient doesn`t respond to treatment`

A doctor cannot be held liable if the patient has not responded favourably to the treatment, a Delhi court said.

New Delhi: A doctor cannot be held liable if the patient has not responded favourably to the treatment, a Delhi court said, discharging two doctors and three nurses of a city government hospital accused of negligently treating a man, who had died.

Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Kamini Lau said that if the doctors were found guilty in departmental inquiry in the matter, that does not make them liable for criminal negligence as the standard of both the inquries are "totally different".

"A doctor is often called upon to adopt the procedure involving higher element of risk where he honestly believes that such risk would provide greater chances to a patient before them. The family of the patient also gives consent to the doctor for such procedure which is acceptable to medical sciences.

"Simply because the patient has not responded favourably to a treatment given, the doctor cannot be held liable per se...It should not be forgotten that error of judgement by a professional is not negligence per se," the court said.

It further said that it is an obligation upon the court to ensure that doctors and medical practitioners are protected from "frivolous and unjust prosecution" and they be summoned only in cases of high degree of culpable criminal negligence.

The case was filed against the medical professionals on the ground that Attar Mohammad, who was admitted in hospital on June 26, 2002 in a critical condition, had died on June 29, 2002 due to collective gross negligence of the doctors and nurses on duty.

The ASJ`s order came while upholding the order of a trial court which had acquitted RBTB Hospital`s Dr Ujwal Kumar Parekh and Dr Amit Pundhir and nurses Aley Thomas, S R John and Kamlesh Sharma of the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

"I prima facie do not find any illegality in the order of the trial court discharging the doctors and nurses there being no sufficient material to proceed against them which fulfil the test laid down by the Supreme Court," the judge said while dismissing the revision petition filed by the family of the patient, who was suffering from tuberculosis and had died in the hospital.

The victim`s family said that Attar was taken to the emergency ward of the hospital on the night of June 25, 2002, but the doctors had asked them to bring the patient the next day and after he was admitted there, he was first kept in the emergency room and later shifted to another ward.

They alleged that the patient`s condition was deteriorating but the doctors did not pay attention towards him and when they pressurised the hospital staff, doctors concerned were called but till then Attar condition had worsen.

The family alleged when the patient became unconscious and they asked the doctor to attend him, the relatives were manhandled by the hospital staff and Attar died on June 29.

The court, discharging the medical professionals, said the documents showed that the patient was diagnosed with TB that had spread into his stomach and the line of treatment, as reflected from the documents, appeared to be standard.

"It is writ large that during the period of stay of the patient in the hospital, no complaint was made to the hospital management by the relatives of the deceased and the complaint in the present case had been filed after much delay on legal advise," it said.

The court said it was evident from the report of medical board, constituted on the request of Attar`s family, that the doctors and staff had been indicted for their carelessness.

"It should not be forgotten that the services which medical professionals render to human being is noblest to all. The choice for a doctor is between the devil and deep-sea and so are higher acuteness in emergency, higher the chances of error of judgement," the court said.