Despite the rising number of cases of medical negligence, victims are struggling to get justice as the State Medical Councils (SMCs) and the Medical Council of India (MCI), the federal institutions assigned to perform the quasi-judicial role, have been unable to fix the responsibility of doctors for their negligence and unethical professional conduct.

A senior official of the MCI, the highest regulatory body for ensuring ethical practices of doctors across the country, said that complaints of medical negligence have risen in recent times. 

Reena Nayyar, secretary-in-charge of the MCI, said: “From May 2017 to 30 November, the MCI has received 118 complaint appeals against doctors, out of which 15 cases have been disposed and the rest of the cases are still pending a conclusion. Also, during the same time period, we received 80 fresh complaints, out of which the MCI has disposed nine cases. The rest of the cases were forwarded to the SMCs concerned for further action,” Nayyar told The Sunday Guardian.

Questioned on the mode of action taken against doctors, Nayyar said: “In many cases, the MCI has taken action ranging from cancelling licences or imposing monetary fine to recommending jail terms against doctors against whom complaints of negligence have been received.”

Incidents of medical negligence have shaken the nation in the past few months. Doctors at Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, erroneously declared a newborn dead recently. A baby boy was declared dead by Max Hospital on 30 November and handed over to the parents in a plastic bag, along with his still-born sister. 

However, the baby started moving while being taken for burial. The baby was then admitted to a clinic in Pitampura, but died on Wednesday. The Delhi government cancelled the licence of Max Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, on Friday.

Recently, Gurgaon-based Fortis Hospital allegedly charged the parents of Adya Singh, a seven-year-old dengue patient, over Rs 15 lakh for 15 days of treatment. The child was declared dead when she was moved to another hospital in Dwarka. Shockingly, Adya was jabbed 40 syringes daily on an average for 14 days, which, according to an official of the Delhi Medical Council, is a medical record. Adya’s father Jayant Singh has already registered an FIR against the hospital and an investigation is on.

Nayyar admitted that due to the lack of staff and infrastructure crunch, victims usually suffer and justice gets delayed. 

“Most of the complaints of unethical professional conduct are against doctors practising in private hospitals,” Nayyar added. According to the Delhi Medical Council (DMC), from January 2016 to November 2017, it has received 521 complaints against doctors, out of which, 195 complaints are still pending.

Commenting on recent incidents of medical negligence, medical experts have stressed on urgent reforms to regulate the country’s medical profession. 

Amit Baweja, a private practitioner who also works with several high-profile hospitals in the city, said: “In order to avoid the rising incidents of medical negligence and misconduct of doctors, there is a need for reforms. The medical profession should be reformed like any other consumer goods sector. The regulatory authorities—MCI or SMCs—should be made more accountable.”

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