“Supreme” Relief to Doctors against charges of causing Death of a patient” – Important Judgement of 2017 !!

Their Lordships of Supreme Court observed,
“.. Where negligence is alleged against professionals like doctors the court should be careful before instituting criminal proceedings. It is not possible for any doctor to assure or guarantee that the result of treatment would invariably be positive”

Case details..
Dr. Sou Jayshree Ujwal Ingole V/s. State of Maharashtra. CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 636 OF 2017, decided on 06th April, 2017.

Facts in short ..
1. This case goes back to to the incident that happened in the year 1997.
2. One Mr. Shrikrishna Gawai, Haemophilic patient by himself, the deceased- patient who met with a road accident was admitted to Irvin Hospital, Amravati on 29.08.1997. on that tay and for next 2 days, he was treated by one Dr.Manohar Mohod, the E.R. in charge and the Appellant, the then Surgeon on call..
3. On 05/09/1997, at about 9 pm. said Dr. Mohod as he himself was not feeling well, sent a call to Appellant, a Surgeon on call, Thus the appellant attended the patient accordingly and after examining him and made a note that a Physician be called and then left the Hospital at 11.00pm
4. However the physician Dr. Avinash Choudhary did not turn up on that day or On Next day and the patient died on next day and hence Criminal Complaint against all the 3 Doctors was filed and the Doctors were held criminally liable for causing death of the patient U/Sec.304A of IPC.
5. Not only this later on in a separate departmental enquiry, all the Doctors were found negligent and they were debarred from increments and permanently prohibited from entering the Hospital ! However later on Dr. Mohod was discharged from the charges. But the Appellant did not get any relief from the lower Courts and hence the Appeal.

Held :
1. Their lordships gave huge relief to the Appellant Doctor, and observed that we are of the view that this is not a case where the appellant should face trial, especially when 20 years have already elapsed.
2. It was observed that the Appellant Surgeon-on call attended the patient as per call and left the patient by 11 pm by noting further reference to physician, as per own judgment. Merely because she did not wait for the physician may be at the msot can be a called as error of judgment but definitely not a rash and negligent act.
3. It was rather nursing staff should have called her again If the condition of the patient had worsened between 11.00pm. and 5.00 am. On next morning the patient was attended by Dr. Mohod, but unfortunately he died. The Court relied upon the landmark judgment of Supreme Court Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab & Anr.(2005) 6 SCC 1, wherein this Court held that the court should be circumspect before instituting criminal proceedings against a medical professional.

This is really a very important judgement and a sigh of relief on the background of current scenarios in Medical Field. It is really unfortunate that the Doctor suffered for 20 years of her career in the Hospital. Who would pay for it now ?

Adv. Rohit Erande
Pune. ©

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