Medical Negligence: Wrong Diagnosis is not Medial Negligence- Supreme Court

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February 26, 2019

In this recent case the Supreme Court has enumerated the factors to be taken into consideration while establishing the liability of concerned doctor or hospital in cases of medical negligence.

Case name: Vinod Jain v. Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital & Anr.

In the case, the Appellant has challenged NCDRC (National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, whereby Commission exonerated the respondents of any medical negligence. Here it would be relevant to mention that the Appellant was aggrieved by the demise of his wife which resulted in the present legal proceedings.

The Appellant in the case initiated legal proceedings under the belief that the respondents were guilty of medical negligence in the manner in which medical treatment was administered to his wife and her subsequent discharge from respondent hospital.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case and principles governing medical negligence law in the case of Kusum Sharma & ors. v. Batra Hospital & Medical Research Centre & ors.[1] upheld NCDRC’s order and made the following observations in the case:

  • That a fundamental aspect, which has to be kept in mind is that a doctor cannot be said to be negligent if he is acting in accordance with a practice accepted as proper by a reasonable body of medical men skilled in that particular art, merely because there is a body of such opinion that takes a contrary view.
  • That in cases of medical negligence, where a special skill or competence is attributed to a doctor, a doctor need not possess the highest expert skill, at the risk of being found negligent, and it would suffice if he exercises the ordinary skill of an ordinary competent man exercising that particular art.
  • That a physician would not assure a full recovery in every case, and the only assurance given, by implication, is that he possesses the requisite skills in the branch of the profession, and while undertaking the performance of his task, he would exercise his skills with reasonable competence.
  • When does Liability of Doctor come into play?

A liability would only come, if (a) either the person (doctor) did not possess the requisite skills which he professed to have possessed; or (b) he did not exercise, with reasonable competence in a given case, the skill which he did possess.

While applying the above stated principles governing the law of medical negligence to the facts of the present case, the Court noted that the respondent Hospital promptly attended the appellant’s wife and carried out medical procedures based on professional and medical assessment by respondent Doctor depending upon the medical condition of the patient, and could not constitute medical negligence.

In view of the aforesaid, the Supreme Court noted that though we have sympathy for the appellant, but sympathy cannot translate into a legal remedy.

It was opined that the case at hand could be termed as a case of wrong diagnosis and certainly not one of medical negligence.

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Important Judgments on Medical Negligence in India

What Is Medical Negligence?  When and How to File a Case pertaining to Medical Negligence?

[1] (2010) 3 SCC 480