Poonam Verma vs. Ashwin Patel (1996) 4 SCC 332

(Medical Negligence Case)
Equivalent citations: (1996) 4 SCC 332 
Petitioner: Poonam Verma
Respondent: Ashwin Patel
Date of Judgment: 10/05/1996
Bench: Ahmad Saghir (J)

Background

The medical profession is one of the noblest professions among all other professions in India. For a patient, the doctor is like God. And, God is infallible. But that is what the patient thinks. In reality, doctors are human beings. And, to err is human. Doctors may commit a mistake. Doctors may be negligent. The support staff may be careless. Two acts of negligence may give rise to a much bigger problem. It may be due to gross negligence. Anything is possible. In such a scenario, it is critical to determine who was negligent, and under what circumstances.

In this case, the Supreme Court differentiated negligence, rashness, and recklessness. A person is said to be a negligent person when he/she inadvertently commits an act of omission and violates a positive duty that he/she should have performed otherwise. A reckless person knows the repercussions of his/her acts but stupidly thinks that they will not occur as a consequence of her/ his act. Any conduct falling short of recklessness and deliberate wrongdoing should not be the subject of criminal liability.

Thus a doctor has to be proved negligent or incompetent so that he/she can be held criminally responsible for a patient’s death, with such disregard for the safety and life of his/her patient that it amounted to a crime against the State.

Facts

Pramod Verma, husband of the appellant, Mrs. Poonam Verma fell ill and complained of fever, and so on July 4th, 1992, Respondent No. 1, Ashwin Patel, who was an authorized Homeopathic kept him under mediation and gave him some allopathic medicines for viral fever for two days, i.e. up to July 6th, 1992 but even after these medications the condition of Ashwin Patel didn’t improve so Respondent No. 1 shifted the medications from viral fever to Typhoid Fever because according to Respondent No. 1 these two diseases were prevalent in the locality.

But even then the condition of Ashwin Patel deteriorated and so on July 12th, 1992, Respondent No. 1 asked the appellant to shift Ashwin Patel to Sanjeevani Maternity and General Nursing Home under Dr. Rajeev Warty, Respondent No.2, and till July 14th, 1992 he was there but on the same day, in the evening he was shifted to Hinduja Hospital in an unconscious state where, after four and a half-hour of admission, he died. The Appellant, therefore, filed a petition before the National Consumer Disputes Redresser Commission, under Consumer Protection Act, Medical Council Act, and Maharashtra Medical Council Act, New Delhi. She contended that due to the negligence on the part of Doctors he died. This case was further passed to the Supreme Court.

Issue

Whether there was a breach of duty of care by Respondent No. 1 in the treatment of Pramod Verma and whether this will amount to actionable negligence.

Decision 

In this case, the respondent was a Homeopathic doctor, who prescribed an allopathic medicine to a patient. The patient didn’t respond to the treatment and subsequently, he died. It had been held that the respondent was a homeopathic doctor and wasn’t allowed under the law to prescribe allopathic medicine. The respondent was held negligible and was ordered to pay compensation to the aggrieved party. Supreme Court recognized carelessness, impulsiveness, and recklessness. A careless individual is one who accidentally submits an illustration of oversight and abuses a positive obligation. a person who is careless knows the outcomes yet absurdly imagines that they won’t happen due to her/his demonstration. A foolish individual realizes the outcomes however couldn’t care less whether or not they result from her/his demonstration. Any direct missing mark regarding foolishness and purposeful bad behavior ought to not be the topic of criminal liability. Sections 80 and 88 of the Indian legal code contain guards for specialists blamed for the criminal obligation. Under Section 80 (mishap in doing a legitimate demonstration) nothing is an offense that’s finished unintentionally or disaster and with no criminal goal or information within the doing of a legal demonstration in an exceedingly legal way by legal methods and with appropriate consideration and alert. As indicated by Section 88, a person can’t be blamed for an offense within the event that she/he plays out an indication in accordance with some basic honesty for the other’s advantage, doesn’t attempt to cause hurt irrespective of whether there’s a danger, and also the patient has expressly or verifiably given assent. Pramod Verma was 35 years old and was getting Rs.5, 700/- per month as salary. He died a young death which has deprived his dependants, namely; the widow, two children, and fogeys, of the monetary benefit they were getting. They’re entitled under law to be compensated. Pramod Verma was 35 years old and was getting Rs.5, 700/- per month as salary. He died a young death which has deprived his dependants, namely; the widow, two children, and fogeys, of the monetary benefit they were getting. They’re entitled under law to be compensated.

Rationale
The court identified the difference between negligence and other conduct. A negligent person is one who unknowingly commits an act of omission and violates a positive duty. during this particular case, the doctor Mr. Patel within the due course of treatment was negligent in his acts by practicing the Allopathic system of medication, though he doesn’t hold any actual locus of practicing the identical. Additionally, to the current, the court also recognizes the nexus between the negligent actions during treatment and therefore the criminal liability thereof of the doctor for the identical.

Conclusion
The court during this case identified the difference between negligence and other conduct. A negligent person is one who unknowingly commits an act of omission and violates a positive duty. During this particular case, the doctor Mr. Patel within the due course of treatment was negligent in his acts by practicing the Allopathic system of medication, though he doesn’t hold any actual locus of practicing the identical. a person who doesn’t know a specific system of medication then again also practices therein concerned system then he is held guilty of medical negligence. this can be a part of the understanding of how the definition of “medical negligence” is argued today. Few would differ that wrongdoing, as in one another calling, has to likewise be managed harshly within the field of medication. The law doesn’t attempt to make any superfluous interruption into the domain which legitimately encompasses a place just with clinical experts, and judges don’t look to force their own intelligence onto them. The legitimate framework doesn’t receive total hands-off methodology either and investigates the activities of a clinical expert and tries to rebuff the individuals who fall underneath the bottom norm, and also the test for creating a call about the base standard is additionally vigorously impacted by the pervasive clinical practices and conclusions, and also the assortment of data accessible as on the important date.

Edited by: Purnima Ojha

References

  1. Himani Kishor Kini, Medical Negligence in India, Legal Services India, (July 18th, 2020, 4)
  2.  Indian Medical Association vs. B.P. Shantha (1995) 6 SCC 651
  3. Whitehouse Vs Jordan
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“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” I am Ms. Shubhi Shukla an ambitious girl whose aim in life is to hone my skills and widen my repertoire as far as possible. I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Arts and Law [B.A.LL.B(Hons.)] from Faculty of Law, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. I didn’t enter this realm of law by my volition but I’m dead certain that I’ll make it my métier and my playground. Comprehending laws that governs societies, absorbing knowledge about every aspects about it and having rational thinking are of primary importance to me as a law student. I try not to talk too much but to walk the talk, I hope to learn with every new opportunity and contribute for others as well.