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“If the public servants can be legally protected for the bonafide errors in their action, there is no reason to extend for not extending such a protection to the medical professionals”: Karnataka High Court

The issue whether medical professionals can be protected if they commit bonafide errors in their actions similar to public servants was decided upon by the a bench of Karnataka High Court consisting of  Justice Krishna S Dixit in the matters between Dr Ganesh Nayak v. V Shamanna WP No.21688 oF 2009 decided on 14.1 2022.

The facts of the case are that by an order dated 7.5.2009, the Karnataka Medical Council had issued a warning to petitioner Dr. Ganesh Nayak for alleged professional malfeasance, namely certain procedural violations in performing angioplasty on a 65-year-old woman named Smt.Yellamma. This was challenged before the High Court.

The counsel on behalf of the petitioners contended this patient has diabetes, neuropathy, nephropathy etc. It was stated that he suffered from various ailments and was treated at different times by different doctors in different hospitals, but the case was brought only to him. Others were not notified of the reason for the show cause. It was alleged that the patient was already 65 years old and suffered from the natural ailments of a shortened life expectancy, and in old age it was natural that some diseases came and remained as inevitable guests.The patient also suffered from a condition in which the functioning of the heart was affected, which increased the probability of death, furthermore the records show that the patient had a long-standing significant problem with the Cardio Vascular Vein and therefore, angiography was done by the petitioner. However, medical records show that the cause of death was a serious bacterial infection. It was later transmitted. There is a big time difference between Angioplasty performed by the petitioner and the death of the patient.There is nothing to indicate that the alleged lack of professional service resulted in death by accelerating deterioration of health. There is no connection or reasonable connection between these and the actions of the petitioner and the death of the patient.

The counsel on behalf of the respondents contended that no counsel appeared for the respondents, however, the court noted that “absence of the counsel cannot interdict the disposal of this decade old case on merits, without unnecessarily prolonging its pendency.”

The Karnataka High Court held that most cases of medical negligence are initiated recklessly by patients and their relatives in hopes of making quick money. The motivation for those suing for medical negligence is complex, with some suing for money, others sue to plead guilty and others do it to avoid repeating mistakes.The court said the “culture of compensation” acquired in other jurisdictions is increasingly entering the realm of medical services in our society, affecting a healthy doctor and patient relationship. How doctors and paramedics have served our society during the COVID pandemic will not be erased from the public’s memory, and the community should gratefully appreciate the valuable services provided by healthcare professionals.Doctors, like any other professional, is a profession that should be focused towards the motto of service, not profit, and they are obviously not exempted from legal action for medical negligence.

Judgement reviewed by Bhaswati Goldar

Dr. Ganesh Nayak -KHC- WP21688-09-14-01-2022

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