There is an alarming rise in the number of recorded cases of medical litigation. Consumers are always ready to fight out any perceived, presumed or conspired deficiency in service. Flexibility and ease provided by consumer forums to file a complaint before the consumer courts too has aided this trend. A recent survey has pointed out four reasons for the rise in medical litigation in India. These include greater consumer awareness, flexible consumer forums, cost involved in medical services, and mindset of greed and litigation among the populace. Statistics cited from the research registry, suggest that the cases of medical negligence have gone up by 400% in the last decade. The trust between patients and doctors is waning, and the high compensation too has made doctors and medical institutions wary. While there should be appropriate actions taken against negligent doctors or those who indulge in malpractices, the focus should be on better patient care. As the courts are jammed with cases of medical negligence, things have come to a stage where doctors are wary of treating complex cases lest they are charged with negligence. What is sure is that most doctors still treat their patients with care and compassion and make their best efforts to cure them. Most are also careful to save patients’ avoidable expenditure, where-ever possible. Despite this the image of the profession has taken a beating. Media has played a villain of the peace. Because of the hype created by media to boost their TRP rates,  there is a increased medical litigation besides Mob attacks against doctors, since people get convinced that any Mob attack is not punished in India. People who file litigation are stimulated by Lawyers as most of the Law suits are filed, with understanding between Lawyers and clients on 50:50 ratio on the claim amount. This trend will affect patient care and lesser people will be taking medical education as career. More than one in four doctors in the early stages of their careers have signs of depression, said a study. The study claimed the grueling years of training for a medical job are to blame. That’s bad news not just for the young doctors themselves, but also for the patients they care for as depressed doctors are more likely to make mistakes and become subjects of litigation..

 

What has created trust deficit between doctors and patients, which is leading to rising litigation:

  1. Unrealistic expectations of patients and their near and dear ones, leading to dissatisfaction, associated with instigation by stakeholders who have greed for fat compensation are the leading causes of litigation. The active promotion of medical litigation by the official bodies under the guise of promoting awareness and general tendency to convert one misfortune into a fortune through fat compensation are also reasons for increase in litigation. If a case is decided against the doctor and if he wants to appeal he has to deposit 50% of the award and this amount gets locked till the case is finally settled in the Supreme Court. How many practitioners have the mettle to indulge in these long drawn out legal battles at the cost of their profession and practice! Unfortunately media publicizes the cases decided against the doctor but they do not publicize the cases which are reversed in favor of doctors.
  2. These days it has become unsafe to have high indemnity insurance for the fear of insurance frauds where the agents collude with the complainant to fleece the insurance company at the cost of doctors.
  3. It goes without saying that every doctor would like to give his patient the best possible treatment. One has to take note that negligence is entirely different from complication or inability to cure, which can happen despite best efforts of the doctor. The advocate and judge are lay people as far as medical science is concerned. Can they alone give a fair judgment whether the doctor was negligent or whether it was a case of unavoidable complication or refractory to treatment? The need to associate doctors and specialists in such courts is paramount. In fact first investigation should be by such professions alone.
  4. There are patients of various economic statuses and so are various standards of health care service providers ranging from solo practitioner in a rural setting to high profile corporate hospitals. However medical risk coverage & liability of doctors for compensation and punishment are same. Patient while procuring health care searches for cheap and inexpensive but while demanding compensation behaves like millionaire. Either compensation should be in terms of charge received by doctor like 10 20 30 40 times of charge paid by patient. or medical practice risk coverage should be like that of vehicles in which owner has to pay depending on the type of vehicles and insurance company will pay as per the demand of patient depending on their income.
  5. There is erosion of trust in the doctors as well as doctor-patient relationship, which is responsible for increased malpractice suits. The doctors themselves have to rise to pronounce the good deeds they are doing and also try to redeem the lost trust by countering the false notions among the public.
  6. What may also be true is that some doctors are poorly trained in skills, lack adequate exposure to quality work and join the profession with inbuilt greet and foul intent to earn undue profits. Many doctors deem, care of the patient to be just another ‘business’, then doctors should be prepared to accept that they will be treated like any other in the ‘business’! However doctors must make it known that medicine is not a perfect science, and failure of treatment is not negligence or malpractice.
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