Lately, Indian Medical Association (IMA), largest doctors’ club and other doctors’ groups across India have started strong movements by crippling hospital services through “doctors’ strike” to protest against physical assaults on doctors and hospital services causing endless pain and suffering for countless innocent patients. The powerful medical lobbies have also exerted pressure on state and central governments to implement new criminal laws seeking non-bailable warrants and up to 14 years of imprisonment for any relatives/friends of the alleged victim of “medical negligence” accused of any attacks on doctor and hospital vandalism. Some states like West Bengal have already enacted such draconian laws only to protect members of the medical profession.
PBT has never condoned any form of physical violence against doctors and hospitals. We also want that government must be able to provide adequate protection against physical attacks against any citizen and members of all profession including doctors. The Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) already have several legal provisions for criminal prosecution against physical violence and destruction of property. In addition, civil laws also provide added protection against any loss due to physical destruction of life and property. What is the justification to make new laws only for protection of our healers? Under Section 304A of CrPC, when a doctor is found guilty for causing death of a patient due to gross medical negligence, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for up to 2 years – ironically, no doctor has ever been sentenced to jail for 2 years in Indian medical history.
Now IMA wants new criminal law to put a deeply aggrieved and otherwise peaceful family member of an alleged victim of medical negligence in jail for 14 years even if he makes a minimal threat after witnessing his loved one dying from reckless treatment and losing mental momentary control. Doctors in India also need to think why incidence of doctor bashing or hospital vandalism is simply unimaginable in developed countries like USA and UK. It is because people in USA/UK have trust on their medical regulatory system as medical councils in the West routinely held many doctors guilty for medical negligence and take stringent disciplinary action by canceling their medical registration. In sharp contrast, Medical Council of India (MCI) and state medical councils in India are riddled with corruption that function only shield their errant medical colleagues without caring for the lives of the defenseless patients as virtually no doctor is found guilty by the doctor-only members of the medical councils in India. A repot written by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, on this burning issue is published in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMD) (see below)