Hospital vicariously liable for its doctors and their conduct – whether on the panel of hospital or associated as visiting doctors.

Right to Health of a citizen is a fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Right to Health of a citizen is a fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Doctors, Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Poly-Clinics are liable to provide treatment to the best of their capacity to all the patients and they have to be dealt with strictly if found negligent with the patients The above observation was made in the recently decided case by the Supreme Court where patient died due to medical negligence. The Supreme Court had directed National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to decide the claim made by husband of the deceased. The NCDRC held the doctor and hospital negligent in treating wife of the claimant husband due to which she died. In an appeal filed against the NCDRC verdict, the Apex Court directed the concerned Hospital and three doctors to make a payment of Rs. 5.96 crore as compensation on account of medical negligence which led to the death of claimant’s wife. Further, the Court also held Hospital vicariously liable for its doctors affirming the position that Hospital is responsible for the conduct of its doctors both on the panel and those associated as visiting doctors. While answering a legal question as to whether claimant can plead enhancement of compensation in appeal as by seeking to amend some portion in the original claim petition, the claimant has forfeited his right under Order II Rule 2 of Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), the Court held that it is the duty of the Tribunals, Commissions and the Courts to consider relevant facts and evidence in respect of facts and circumstances of each and every case to award just and reasonable compensation. The Court should also take into account factors like inflation of money while ascertaining quantum of compensation. Cost of Inflation Index (C.I.I.) which is determined by the Union Finance Ministry every year to appreciate the level of devaluation of money each year if followed, the original claim which was of Rs.77.7 crores in 1998 would now be equivalent to Rs.188.6 crores as of year 2013. Thus the claim as sought to be enhanced was legally sustainable. Further, while determining such claim or additional claim, as held there cannot be a strait jacket multiplier method in medical negligence claims. The Court requires arrive at just, fair and reasonable compensation on the basis of income that was being earned by the deceased at the time of her death and other related claims on account of death. Since the NCDRC did not awarded interest on the compensation determined, the Court further held this as most unreasonable and opposed to the provision of the Interest Act, 1978. Apart from the fact that the present case should be reckoned as a deterrent or a check against the unscrupulous medical practitioners, hospitals and clinics, it also affirms following legal position: • Courts or Tribunals should award just and reasonable compensation; • While awarding “just compensation”, the order can be passed irrespective of the fact whether any plea in that behalf was raised by the claimant or not; • Claimant, once held entitled, should receive sum of money which would put him in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong; • Courts while determining just, fair and reasonable compensation should take into account income earned by the victim and also the period throughout i.e. claim since it was filed and ultimately awarded and realised; Dr. Balram Prasad vs. Dr. Kunal Saha & Ors. (alongwith other connected Appeals) (24.10.2013, SC)