Patients' kin assaulting doctors, hospital staff has become regular feature: HC tells MP Govt to amend law
Jabalpur: Noting that beating of doctors and hospital staff has become a very regular feature, the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the State Government to strengthen the legislation in preventing the abuse of healthcare professionals and asked it to to bring about appropriate amendments the M.P. ChikitsaEvamChikitsaSeva Se SambandhVyaktiyon KiSurakshaAdhiniyam, 2008 (2008 Adhiniyam) which inspite of being passed to protect the healthcare professionals has failed to achieve the intended goal.
Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla, further directed the government to invite suggestions from all stakeholders and consider including some elements of the recently passed Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 to provide deterrence to the perpetrators of such crimes.
The court was adjudicating on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) registered on the basis of a letter sent by Dr. Sanjay Maheshwari, Head of M.P. Birla Hospital & Priyamvada Birla Cancer Research Institute, Satna(M.P.), to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The petitioner contended that on the midnight of 11th November, 2013, a person with serious injuries on his head, face, chest with fractured ribs, ruptured lung, multiple facial fractures, and skull base fracture was admitted to the Emergency ward of the M.P Birla Hospital, Satna where the petitioner had been working as a surgeon for 26 years.
He submitted that despite of trying hard, the victim passed away after 3.5 hours which agitated the relatives of the deceased, following which, they gathered a large crowd and abused and threatened the petitioner and other members of the paramedical staff at their working and residential areas.
Further, the relative of the deceased put pressure on the police to lodge an FIR against the petitioner under section 304 of the IPC.
According to the reply filed by the state to the writ petition, the complainant had alleged that there was delay in procuring oxygen cylinder by the hospital and had objected at the conduct of the hospital. The doctor was eventually granted bail by the Additional Sessions Judge of Satna and a cross FIR under several sections of the IPC and under Section 3/4 of the 2008 Adhiniyam was filed against the relatives of the deceased.
Section 3 of the 2018 Adhiniyam prohibits any kind of assault, criminal force, intimidation to the medical and health professionals "during or incidental to discharge of his lawful duties pertinent to medical and health care delivery within medical and service institutions or in a mobile clinic or in an ambulance" and section 4 makes it an offence with imprisonment upto three months or with a fine that can extend upto ten thousand rupees or may include both.
While disposing of the petition, the court noted,
"This is an intra party dispute leading to lodgement of cross FIRs and therefore the present petition cannot be entertained as a public interest litigation."
However, the court also expressed its strong disappointment with the manhandling and abuse of the healthcare professionals by the attendants of the admitted patients, which has increased especially during the time of Covid-19.
"This Court cannot lose sight of the fact that misbehaviour, abuse, manhandling and many times beating of the doctors and other paramedical staff in the hospitals by the attendants of the patients has these days rather become a very regular feature."
The court observed that this was one of the reasons for the Centre amending the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 by way of Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 on 29th September which specifically defined the "act of violence" as those acts against healthcare service personnel during an epidemic.
Despite being a cognizable and non-bailable offence under section 5 of the Adhiniyam, the court noted its insufficiency and held,
"This Court therefore directs the respondents- State Government to revisit the provisions of the 2008 Adhiniyam by inviting suggestions from all the stakeholders as to how it can be made more effective so as to provide deterrence to the perpetrators of such crime with the doctors and paramedical staff. The State Government, in doing so, may consider incorporating some parts of the amendments, introduced in the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, in the 2008 Adhiniyam to provide more teeth to this enactment and make it really effective with the purpose of containing recurrence of such unsavoury incidents with the doctors and paramedical staff whose services to the society deserve special recognition."
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