Shibu Thomas | TNN
Mumbai: In a landmark judg¬ment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday stepped in to check the harassment of doctors in med¬ical negligence cases. A division Bench, comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice GS Singhvi, held that consumer and criminal courts would have to seek the opinion of a doctor or a panel of doctors before is¬suing notice to a medical prac¬titioner or hospital in a case al¬leging negligence.
The fresh guidelines stipu¬late that whenever a consumer forum or criminal court receives a complaint against a doctor, it should refer the matter to a pan¬el of experts. Only after the pan¬el reports that there is a prima facie case of medical negligence should a notice be issued to the concerned doctor or hospital.
"This is necessary to avoid harassment to doctors, who may not be ultimately found to be neg¬ligent," observed the bench. It said, "The courts and consumer fora are not experts in medical science and must not hold their own views over that of special¬ists. It is true that the medical profession has to an extent be¬come commercialised and there are many doctors who depart from their Hippocratic oath for their selfish ends of making money However, the entire med¬ical fraternity cannot be blamed or branded as lacking in in¬tegrity or competence just be¬cause of some bad apples."
The court also warned police officials not to arrest or harass doctors unless the facts were in line with earlier SC guidelines.
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New Delhi: Coming to the rescue of doctors harassed in medical negligence cases, the Supreme Court warned the police not to arrest them unless the facts met with its earlier guidelines.
"Otherwise, the police¬men will themselves have to face legal action," said the judges. The matter before the court pertained to a 17-year-old case filed by a Delhi res- ident and senior Union com¬merce ministry official Mo¬hammad Ishfaq against a Mumbai-based doctor prac¬tising at Nanavati Hospital. Ishfaq, who suffered from chronic renal failure and was awaiting a kidney transplant, had undergone treatment for a brief period with physician Martin D'Souza for urinary tract infection and also blood infection, TNN.