In India, there is only one doctor for every 10,189 people while the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1:1000. There is a shortage of 600,000 doctors in India and the nurse to patient ratio is 1:483, which means that there is a deficit of two million nurses for the whole population. This leads to doctors handling more cases on a daily basis. In such a scenario, it is important for doctors to not overlook the possibility of medico-legal cases. As per studies Medico-legal Issues Impacts Doctor motivation, especially If they are not well-informed and educated about how to handle these cases. These cases may lead to penalty and other criminal liabilities and take huge toll on their mental health.

How Medico-legal Issues Impacts Doctor Motivation

Professional Indemnity Insurance, taken by most hospitals and doctors, covers only a 1 year period and is capped at Rs 10 lakh. The policy also excludes claims arising out of contractual responsibilities, loss of goodwill, fines, penalties, defamation, etc.’ This makes doctors and hospitals liable to huge financial risks if they lose an MLC. Doctors are increasingly steering clear of complicated cases, becoming risk-averse and it may adversely impact their motivation. The exorbitant amounts of compensation in MLCs is a point of debate since, in the future, patients may be compensated with higher amounts.

Calculating compensations can be unpredictable and can vary across cases, courts and tribunals. This has resulted in prolonged disputes, loss of faith in the judicial system and repeated appeals. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that a credible opinion from another competent doctor must support accusations of medical negligence. This is because at times doctors may indulge in uncertain treatments as an alternative. Compensation for these cases must be just, reasonable and prudent to ensure doctors aren’t heavily penalised. Better regulations and a cap on compensations can help ensure a fear-free atmosphere for medical practitioners.

An example of how implication without due processes can harm the reputation of doctors is as follows: A nephrologist, R Sreedhara, a doctor from Fortis Hospital, Bangalore alleged that his reputation, built over a period of 25 years of medical service was tarnished after an episode of a popular television show,  Satyamev Jayate, was aired. The episode focused on the state of healthcare services in India and medical negligence and referred to negligence on his part leading to the death of a patient, Seema Rai. On the show, her husband, retired Army officer Major Pankaj Rai alleged that the doctor and his team carried out surgeries without receiving his consent. After the episode was broadcast, the doctor has been receiving many calls and is still fighting medical bodies of arbitration. According to him, the Karnataka Medical Council clearly said that his case wasn’t a case of medical negligence. Due to the episode, the case was termed as gross medical negligence before being examined by experts or an investigation. Cases like these can have an impact on doctors’ motivation as well.

Awareness among patients regarding the uncertainty of some medical procedures and thorough documentation can ensure that these cases are resolved out of court. With the introduction of uniformity and predictability in the number of compensations, doctors can practice in their area of specialty without fear of exorbitant penalties. A basic lowdown on how medical negligence compensation is calculated and resolved in the Indian judiciary can help a doctor practice his profession, without concerns about being sued for alleged medical negligence. Hospitals and NGOs with the help of internal committees can play a part in cases of medical negligence by helping both parties reach a resolution instead of taking it to court.