Most medical associations advise doctors to go for a minimum insurance of Rs 1 crore per annum, which is four times what they would opt for just a couple of years ago. The period has seen a 30-40% annual rise in the number of doctors enrolling for indemnity schemes to cover legal costs if sued, as well as to shore up against possible payouts to aggrieved patients.

A cardiovascular surgeon from Mumbai has sought an indemnity cover of a staggering Rs 20 crore, highlighting a trend of doctors buying bigger-than-before insurance policies to safeguard against litigation. Health activists and even a section of doctors have called it an unhealthy trend, “a reflection of growing commercialisation of healthcare”.

The need for protection from medico-legal liabilities, doctors say, has mainly been brought on by increasing litigation and the decisions of “consumer friendly” courts.

Some doctors say it’s one-sided to blame litigators or the courts. They say that the situation has come about in the first place because of increased commercialization of healthcare.
Besides litigation, major private hospitals and medical associations advise doctors to insure themselves—again, a fallout of commercialisation. “In many hospitals, it’s a prerequisite. A doctor has to submit indemnity policy papers to get on board as a consultant,” said noted gynaecologist Dr Kiran Coelho, who consults at Lilavati and Hinduja hospitals. “Most doctors I know have a cover of Rs 1-3 crore,” she said.

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