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Lack Of Resources Or Excessive Workload Is No Defense For “Medical Negligence”: British Medical Journal (BMJ) Reports

Leaders of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have frequently claimed that lack of adequate infrastructure and too much workload in Indian hospitals and nursing homes are responsible for doctors committing more mistakes and medical malpractice. Top international medical journal, British Medical Journal (BMJ), has categorically undermined any such notions as BMJ in a report published this week has reported that according to the medico-legal experts, law would not accept any view that a lack of adequate resources or excessive workload in hospitals as a defense in cases involving gross medical negligence (“Workload pressure no defense against clinical negligence, barrister warns” by Abi Rimmer, BMJ 2017: 357, j2103). The BMJ report has advised that the argument that UK government’s healthcare system (NHS) has not allocated enough financial resources for running government hospitals cannot provide any shield for doctors who are facing charges of criminal negligence causing death of a patient. While a number of doctors in UK have been jailed after conviction for criminal negligence (“manslaughter”) causing death of a patient through reckless treatment, in history of Indian medicine, not a single bona fide allopathic physician has ever been convicted for criminal negligence under Section 304A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) that carries a maximum jail sentence of 2 years, fine or both. Even in the most well-known medical negligence case for death of Anuradha Saha, although three senior doctors (Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, Dr. Baidyanath Halder and Dr. Abani Roychowdhury) were convicted under IPC 304A and sentenced for 3 months jail by the trial court, their conviction was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court on the ground of “cumulative negligence” (suggesting that some other junior doctors, who were not charged criminally, also contributed, albeit to a minimal level, to Anuradha’s eventual death).

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