A survey recently carried out by National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, points out four reasons regarding The Rise of Medical Litigation in India – Greater Consumer Awareness, Flexible Consumer Forums, Cost involved in Medical Services and Litigent mindset amongst the Populace, quoted Sairam Bhat, Associate Prof. and Co-ordinator, Distance Education Department, and CEERA, NLSIU, Bengaluru. Bhat was the chief guest at the workshop organised by NLSIU and SDM Law College and Centre for PG Studies and Research in Law regarding the same.
He remarks that there is a steady increase in the cases of medical litigation in the country. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their rights, duties and responsibilities, and are ready to fight out any deficiency in service delivery mechanisms. Flexibility and ease provided by consumer forums to file a complaint before the consumer courts too has aided this trend. He also added that unlike moving a regular civil court to file a case, consumers can now do so with ease in a consumer court. He cited instances of consumers arguing their case themselves rather than through advocates.
He also noted, with the rising cost of healthcare, expectations from the medical institutions are also growing and that they tend to cry negligence for the smallest of deficiency in service delivery.
In addition, the basic mindset of the Indian public is to ‘litigate.’ They are not averse to moving the courts to seek justice. He supported the idea put forward by NLSIU that it is better to go in for mediation rather than litigation.
Dr Suresh B Shetty, head of department of the Forensic Sciences, Kasturba Medical College, Mangaluru, who released an e-journal, remarked that the doctors are literally in the dock because of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Noting that the courts are jammed with cases of medical negligence, Shetty remarked that this is not a welcome sign, things have come to a stage where doctors – both new comers and seniors – are wary of treating complex cases lest they are charged with negligence.
Citing statistics from the research registry, he said the cases of medical negligence have gone up by 400% in the last 10 years. Noting that the trust between patients and doctors is waning, Shetty remarked that the high compensation too has made doctors and medical institutions wary. While advocating punishment for negligent doctors, he said that the focus mostly should be on quality patient care.