What Is Medical Negligence?
The standard of care from doctors and hospital authority is expected to be more in comparison with other cases of negligence. The term negligence is defined as the absence or lack of care that a reasonable person should have taken in the circumstances of the case. Negligence is simply failure to exercise due care. The three ingredients of negligence are as follows:
1. The defendant owes a duty of care to the plaintiff
2. The defendant has breached this duty of care.
3. The plaintiff has suffered an injury due to his breach.
And in case of medical negligence mostly the doctor is the defendant. Negligence is predominantly a theory of liability concerning allegations of medical malpractice, making this type of litigation part of the Tort Law. It is now a settled principle of law that a medical practitioner will bring to his task a reasonable degree of skill and knowledge and must exercise a reasonable degree of care.
Negligence is the breach of a legal duty to care. It means carelessness in a matter in which the law mandates carefulness. A breach of this duty gives a patient the right to initiate action against negligence.
Persons who offer medical advice and treatment implicitly state and undertake to have the skill and knowledge to do as under:
1. To undertake particular job.
2. To decide whether to take a case or not ,
3. To decide the treatment suitable for particular case
4. To administer that treatment.
This is known as an “implied undertaking” on the part of a medical professional.However, no human being is perfect and even the most renowned specialist could make a mistake in detecting or diagnosing the true nature of a disease.
A doctor can be held liable for negligence only if one can prove that she/ he is guilty of a failure that no doctor with ordinary skills would be guilty of if acting with reasonable care. An error of judgment constitutes negligence only if a reasonably competent professional with the standard skills that the defendant professes to have, and acting with ordinary care, would not have made the same error.
Indian Penal Code 1860 sections 52, 80, 81, 83, 88, 90, 91, 92 304-A, 337 and 338 contain the law of medical malpractice in India.
A physician can be charged with criminal negligence when a patient dies from the effects of anesthesia during, an operation or other kind of treatment, if it can be proved that the death was the result of malicious intention, or gross negligence. Before the administration of anesthesia or performance of an operation, the medical man is expected to follow the accepted precautions.
In such cases, the physician should be able to prove that he used reasonable and ordinary care in the treatment of his patient to the best of his judgment. He is, however, not liable for an error judgment. The law expects a duly qualified physician to use that degree of skill and care which an average man of his qualifications ought to have, and does not expect him to bring the highest possible degree of skill in the treatment of his patients, or to be able to guarantee cures.
When Does The Liability Arise In Case Of Medical Negligence?
The liability of a doctor arises not when the patient suffers injury but when the injury results due to the conduct of the doctor, which was below reasonable care. Hence once there exist a duty which has to be established by the patient, then the next step is to prove breach of such duty and the causation.
Normally the liability arises only when the plaintiff is able to discharge the burden on him of proving negligence. However, in some cases the principle of “res ipsa loquitor” which means the thing speaks for it might come into action. Mostly the doctor is liable only for his own acts. However in some cases a doctor can also be made vicariously liable for the acts of another. The example of such a situation is when a junior doctor assisting the senior doctor commits a mistake it becomes the duty of the senior to have supervised him hence vicariously liable.
Proof of Medical Negligence
It has been held in different judgments by the National Commission and the Hon’ble Supreme Court that a charge of professional negligence against a doctor stood on a different footing from a charge of negligence against a driver of a vehicle. The burden of proof correspondingly greater on the person who alleges negligence against a doctor. It is known fact that things can go wrong even wit the best doctor. And the guilt or the negligence should be established beyond all reasonable doubts that his skill fell below reasonable care that he ought to take during the treatment/ surgery.
Burden of proof and chances of error
The burden of proof of negligence, carelessness, or insufficiency generally lies with the complainant. The law requires a higher standard of evidence than otherwise, to support an allegation of negligence against a doctor. In cases of medical negligence the patient must establish her/ his claim against the doctor.
Even after adopting all medical procedures as prescribed, a qualified doctor may commit an error. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the Supreme Court have held, in several decisions, that a doctor is not liable for negligence or medical deficiency if some wrong is caused in her/ his treatment or in her/ his diagnosis if she/ he has acted in accordance with the practice accepted as proper by a reasonable body of medical professionals skilled in that particular art, though the result may be wrong. In various kinds of medical and surgical treatment, the likelihood of an accident leading to death cannot be ruled out. It is implied that a patient willingly takes such a risk as part of the doctor-patient relationship and the attendant mutual trust.
So collect the best evidence and cop with arms then file suit