On 24th December 1986, the Consumer Protection Act (COPRA) had been established by the government of India to safeguard the rights and interests of the consumers. However, this act was later modified, and new clauses were added and amended to provide better protection to the consumers in general. This article is going to elucidate certain concepts relating to medical negligence and its involvement under COPRA.
The consumers with relation to the medical industry are:
- The patient who pays the doctor for availing the services.
- Either of the spouses, parents or any other family relatives.
- The legal heirs or the legal representatives of the patient.
It was only after the landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court in the case of Indian Medical Association Vs V. P. Shanta that the medical industry and the medical professionals were brought within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 under section 2(1)(o) of the Act.
The relationship between a doctor and a patient is completely based on trust and confidence. In the course of the treatment, if the doctor violates any of his/her duties, it amounts to medical negligence by the doctor. Thus, it is important for the doctors and the patients to know the rules and regulations laid down through the various landmark judgements of the Supreme Court and other such provisions laid down through COPRA in order to safeguard themselves.
How can a patient approach the consumer forum
The consumer has the option to approach the consumer forum for exercising speedy redressal of medical negligence cases or they can also file a criminal case against the medical practitioner. The consumer must note that in order to file a consumer case under medical negligence, they must be ready with the following documents:
- The prescription, the bills and the references given by the medical practitioner.
- One must maintain the medical history records before filing the case in the consumer forum.
- It should also be noted that the consent which is given by the patient or the relatives can also be used as evidence in the court of law.
Role of consumer dispute redressal forum
The Medical Council Act has enlisted provisions to control the negligent acts of medical practitioners in cases of medical negligence. The Indian Medical Association (now, the National Medical Commission) has the right to take disciplinary actions against the medical professionals, who have committed such an act. Therefore, the consumer dispute redressal forum or the consumer court works as an additional remedy through which compensation is given to the consumers, in this case, patients and their representatives.
The consumer redressal forum, may or may not give the judgment in the favour of the consumer.
There is no specific set of the rules laid down for the consumer dispute redressal forum or the court with regards to medical negligence in India. However, it is high time to make guidelines that the consumer courts have to follow in cases of medical negligence so that the cases of medical negligence are disposed of faster with appropriate compensation and justice to the consumer.
Even in cases of medical negligence under the consumer court, the court says that the burden of proof lies upon the patient or his family. For filing a medical negligence case, it is important to prove that the patient was treated wrongfully by the doctor.
In the light of recent events with relation to medical negligence, it is important to note that the consumer court should establish specific set of roles for themselves so that if patients approach the consumer forum or the court, then it would be the easier for the patients to determine whether their case stands a chance for speedy redresses of dispute, also, these guidelines will provide certainty. The consumers in the case of medical negligence should make a note that only compensation or monetary gains are awarded to them under COPRA and not imprisonment and other such punishments.