New Delhi: Holding that loss of consciousness is a natural consequence of anaesthesia, the Supreme Court recently set aside the orders of the high court and the lower courts that called for criminal proceedings initiated against an Anaesthetist accused of medical negligence under IPC 304A
While giving the relief, the court further noted that in absence of any prima facie material against the appellant, who is a doctor, it shall not be appropriate to subject him to the travails of criminal prosecution on vague allegations.
The case concerned a female patient who had come to an anaesthetists clinic for delivery. However, during the delivery complications arose leading to death. As per the count of the complainant, the patient’s husband, the patient consciousness upon the appellant administering her injection at the hospital. She regained consciousness and had to be shifted to the hospital at Ajmer where a pacemaker was installed but the child did not survive after delivery.
Besides the operating surgeon, a case was also filed against the anaesthetist, whereby it was alleged that the
anaesthetist is stated to have pressurised the complainant to come to his wife’s private clinic for the delivery. The allegation
is of improper administration of anaesthetic injection resulting in the death of the child soon after delivery.
The lower courts called for an order of cognizance against the appellant under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”). However, filing an appeal, the appellant the anaesthetist went to the supreme court
Noting the previous judgements on booking a doctor under the clause of IPC 304A, laid down under Jacob Mathew case, the court gave relief to the doctor
We are of the opinion that loss of consciousness upon administration of anaesthesia is but a natural consequence. The complainant himself admits that his wife then regained consciousness at the hospital at Kishangarh. Apparently, there was no fault on part of the appellant. There is no allegation or material annexed to the complaint that the appellant was not a qualified anaesthetist or that the anaesthesia was administered to the patient in a negligent manner or in improper dosage. The fact that the patient developed complications because of her own bodily infirmity is evident from the fact that a pacemaker had to be installed at the government hospital at Ajmer after which she delivered the child on 26.10.2001. Unfortunately, the child did not survive and expired at the hospital at Ajmer on 14.11.2001, after more than two weeks.
The court noted that a doctor cannot be subjected to criminal prosecution based on vague allegations.
We find it difficult to accept that the death of the child was a consequence of the anaesthesia administered to the patient. There is no material whatsoever with regard to the post mortem report of the child with regard to the cause of death. It cannot be lost sight of that the child survived for more than two weeks. The appellant states that the child was born with the umbilical cord around his neck and response time after delivery was delayed by about seven minutes. There is no rebuttal to this fact. In absence of any prima facie material against the appellant, who is a doctor, it shall not be appropriate to subject him to the travails of criminal prosecution on vague allegations.
” In the facts and circumstances of the present case, we are satisfied that on the face of the complaint itself no offence is made out against the appellant under Section 304A IPC to sustain the order of cognizance.” stating this the court set aside the orders against the anaesthetist while allowing the remaining criminal case.