Can A Doctor Be Jailed For Wrong Treatment?

While there is provision for jail, proving negligence in medical treatment is a challenging task in many cases

Doctors are trained to provide the best treatment available to patients. However, from a human perspective, achieving a 100% success rate is not possible. There are also cases where medical treatment may lead to disability or even the death of the patient. It makes us wonder if there is any accountability fixed for doctors. Can a doctor be jailed for wrong treatment or medical negligence? To answer that, here are some important things to consider.

Causing Death By Negligence – Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

As per the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, there is provision for both jail term and fine in case of death caused due to negligence. In case of a registered medical practitioner, death by negligence is punishable with a jail term of up to two years. The medical practitioner will also have to pay a fine, as decided by the court of law. This law is applicable in cases where death occurs while performing a medical procedure.

For the purpose of this law, the ‘registered medical practitioner’ has been described as an individual who has a medical degree recognized under the National Medical Commission Act, 2019. Such a person should also be registered under the State Medical Register or the National Medical Register. It is to note that the jail term for doctors was five years earlier. It has been reduced to two years, as per the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.

Challenges in proving death by negligence

Family and relatives of the patient are mostly unaware about medical practices and procedures. There is no option other than to trust the doctor completely. It is unlikely that a doctor will be careless while performing a medical procedure. But considering the large number of patients and stretched medical infrastructure, doctors often have to perform under highly stressful conditions. Such environments can increase the risk of mistakes.

While family members may file a death by negligence charge against a doctor, proving the same may be challenging. Considering the complexities of medical procedures, there are bound to be different opinions among doctors. A dedicated medical team that can investigate such cases may not be immediately available. Unless there are some serious lapses, it will be difficult to prove death by negligence.

On the part of the police, they may not have the resources to properly investigate such cases. A post mortem can reveal some strong evidence, but following the same in a court can take a long time.

What to do if you suspect death by negligence?

It is important that you keep all the medical records in your safe custody. Documents such as prescriptions, test results, etc. will play an important role in determining the overall health of the patient. You also need to contact a lawyer, who may have experience in handling such cases. Medical services are also covered under the Consumer Protection Act. If you are looking for compensation, you can also approach a consumer court.




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