Karnataka: Clarifying the position of the law in prosecution of nursing professionals by the medical councils, the Karnataka High Court recently made it clear that nurses are not medical practitioners and by that logic do not fall under the jurisdiction of the State Medical Council.
The observations of law were made in a petition filed by the Medical Superintendent as well as the nurses of Kasturba Hospital Udupi, challenging the orders of the state medical council calling for action against the nurses by the MS, in a medical negligence case
The state medical council, in case filed by the parent of a deceased child alleging medical negligence, had upon inquiry held that while the complainant had failed to prove negligence on the part of
the doctors but held that the nurses were negligent.
Therefore, the council directed the MS of the hospital to take action against the nurses for their negligence.
The MS and the nurses then approached the court calling order passed by the Statutory Body as erroneous, contrary to material on record
The counsel for the three contended that since nurses are not medical practitioners as contemplated under the provisions of the Karnataka Medical Registration Act, 1961. Therefore, the council has no jurisdiction to direct the Medical Superintendent to take action against the nurses.
He would further contend that in fact the complainant (deceased patient’s family) already approached the District Consumer Forum and there was a settlement between the nurses and the complainant and the complaint came to be closed by a compromise dated 8.9.2015 between the parties. Therefore, he submitted that the impugned order passed by nurses directing is without jurisdiction. Therefore, he has sought to allow the writ petition.
Meanwhile, the counsel for state medical council sought to justify the impugned action and contended that because of the negligence on the part of the petitioners, the complainant lost her child.
Therefore, the Karnataka Medical Council taking into consideration the professional ethics, issued directions to the MS to take action against nurses, as the Karnataka Medical Council has no power to take action against nurses.
Further the Government Advocate as well as the learned counsel appearing for medical council also sought
to justify the impugned action and contended that the petitioners who are in the medical field have to ensure the safety and the life of every individual who approach the particular hospital with all devotion and faith and because of the negligent act of the nurses, the faith is vanished. Therefore, they submit that it is for the 1st petitioner Medical Superintendent to set right the Hospital and its Staff to avoid future incidents.
The court, in detail went through the provisions of the Karnataka Medical Registration Act, 1961 as well as the definitions of the registered medical practitioner
A careful reading of the said provision makes it clear that persons who intend to practice medicine in the State who got themselves registered by applying to the Registrar giving a correct description of the qualification, the dates on which they were granted, and present his degree etc.,. Failure to do so disentitle them to practice in the State in terms of Section 15(2) of the Central Act.
Admittedly, petitioners 2 and 3 nurses are not themselves registered by applying to the Registrar giving description of the qualification.
The court then went into details of the provisions of the act
In view of the aforesaid provisions, the nurses cannot be categorized as medical practitioners practicing medicine and the Karnataka Medical Council has no jurisdiction to take action against the nurses. If that is so, the impugned direction issued by the 2nd respondent directing 1st petitioner to take action is totally without jurisdiction.
Allowing the petition, and quashing the order of the medical council, the court stated.
However, if there is any deficiency in the hospital, it is needless to observe it is for the concerned authorities to take appropriate action in accordance with law.