Doctors not hospitals guilty in negligence deaths: Court


New Delhi : If a patient dies due to medical negligence in a hospital then its management cannot be prosecuted and it is only the doctors who should be penalized, the Delhi High Court has ruled.

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However, the court held that the management of the hospital would be liable in case of administrative negligence and failure to provide basic infrastructure to patients.

Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra passed the order on a petition filed by Indraprastha Medical Corporation Limited challenging a metropolitan magistrate’s order for registration of a first information report against it for alleged medical negligence resulting in the death of a patient in 2007.

Setting aside the trial court order, Justice Dhingra said: “The hospital or company cannot be held liable for the personal negligence of the doctor in giving wrong treatment.”

“If there is an administrative negligence or a negligence of not providing basic infrastructure, which results into some harm to an aggrieved person or such negligence which is impersonal, the hospital can be held liable,” Justice Dhingra said.

The court, in its observation, said that it is the doctor who treats the patients and hospitals should not be punished due to error on part of its medical staff. “The offence of medical criminal negligence cannot be fastened on the company since the company can neither treat nor operate a patient of its own.”

“It is the doctor working in the hospital who treats and performs operations. It is the doctor who examines the patients and prescribe medicines. If there is a deliberate or negligent act of the doctor working in the hospital, it is the liability of the doctor and not of the hospitals for criminal negligence,” the court said in an order delivered last week.

In the present case, the company contended that the hospital could not be held responsible as the patient was being treated by three doctors from the Department of Cardiology a few years back.

Counsel for the hospital argued that the patient had a natural death at his home several months after the surgery but the patient’s family alleged that severe complications due to negligent treatment by the hospital doctors led to the death.