The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2010: Will It Change the fate of accident victims?

By at 15 February, 2010, 9:25 pm

The 201st Law Commission report states that “Road accidents are increasing at an alarming rate of 3% annually. About 10.1% of all deaths in India are due to accidents and injuries. A vehicular accident is reported every 3 minutes and a death. A trauma-related death occurs in India every 1.9 minutes.”

In India, the witnesses of an accident become mere spectators due to the fear of subsequent legal procedures and their lack of awareness about pre-medical care. Often the doctors ignore such victims by denying the authorization of these medico-legal cases. There is a lapse of almost 35 to 45 minutes time between the accident and the arrival at the hospital. This is usually because public is very scared to offer any help to the victim. The people are frightened that the same would turn out to be a police case. Very few people take up the responsibility to help him. Some formalities have to be addressed when the victim arrives at the hospital. Ultimately the patient is provided with some treatment. But at times the delay may even result in his death. In such cases the responsibility lies not only on the hospital but on the entire system.

The Court has not remained silent on the issue either. In Parmand Katra v. Union of India the Supreme Court observed that “Every injured citizen brought for medical treatment should instantaneously be given medical aid to preserve life and thereafter the procedural criminal law should be allowed to operate in order to avoid negligent death.” “The patient whether he be an innocent person or be a criminal liable to punishment under the laws of the society, it is the obligation of those who are in charge of the health of the community to preserve life so that the innocent may be protected and the guilty may be punished. Social laws do not contemplate death by negligence to tantamount to legal punishment.”

Samantha Mukherjee a 20 year old student died. The hospital had discontinued his treatment when a fee of RS 15,000 could not be arranged. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on hearing the case, stated that medical aid cannot be refused on the grounds that victim is unable to pay the fee.  The victim’s family was subsequently compensated with Rs.10 lakhs.

Fortunately, the enactment of a new legislation is on the cards. Movies like Munna Bhai M.B.B.S and others have always drawn our attention towards the miserable condition of accident victims who are often left unattended by the doctors.  Favorably on 22 February things might change.

The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2010 if passed by the Parliament would bring smiles to the face of many people. Although it primarily provides a legislative outline for the registration and regulation of clinical establishments in the country. It would also make it mandatory for doctors, hospitals and other medical establishments to treat and stabilize victims of road accidents and other emergency conditions. The act would apply to all systems of medicines and not only particularly to allopathy. The act would also apply to small clinics and even single doctors. The act would however not apply to Armed Forces Medical Service. The Act would primarily be applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim and all the union territories. It is expected to be implemented by other states as well. Similar legislation have already been passed by Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Nagaland, Andra Pradesh and Orrisa. It would also set minimum standards of facilities and services which surely improve the health services in the country.

It is definitely an optimistic step put forth by the legislature. It would highly benefit the accident victims. The victims would not only be given initial medical care but if the hospital is found  incompetent to provide the same the patient would be transferred to another hospital with adequate facilities. The doctors would no longer be allowed to leave such patients in agony. They would be obligated to provide them with due medical assistance.

The people must be made aware of the Act by advertisements and other means.  The notices should also be displayed in all clinics, dispensaries and hospitals. There is an urgent need for well-equipped and well-maintained ambulances in the country. Pre-medical training must be given at governmental and educational institutions.

In United States the person giving pre-medical assistance to accident victims is not subjected to any kind of damages. Similar position must be adopted in India as well. The common notion that prevails in the country that helping an accident victim would result in problems must be addressed. Law has only a minimum role to play when the moral responsibility of the citizens is involved. The constant fear of the public must be addressed both by the government and the police. For this more and more Community Policing schemes must be encouraged. The people who help accident victims must be given credit and recognition. Saving life is not only by saving people from drowning or murderers but also by providing the adequate medical help at the time of need.

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