Cases pending before Medical Board for its expert opinion

For those who have lost a loved one or suffered damage due to medical negligence, the process of finding justice can be a time-consuming one.

In every case that the police investigate, the force has the task of finding and analyzing evidence to reach a conclusion about what happened during an alleged crime. In cases of medical negligence, however, the police have to rely greatly on outside help to form their opinions about whether the medical practitioner concerned may be guilty of malpractice. “The police may not understand the complexities involved in a case of medical negligence. A trained doctor may be able to analyse questions of malpractice better. The police and the courts thus have to rely on advice of medical experts in cases of malpractice,” said a government pleader in the district.

When they receive a complaint of medical negligence leading to death, the police register a case under Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code for causing death by negligence. As with all cases of unnatural death, the body of the deceased is sent for a post-mortem examination. As in the case of investigation into the death of a 26-year-old at a hospital at Aluva here recently, the final post-mortem report itself can take a while if any chemical examination of internal organs is required. After the post-mortem report is obtained, the case is forwarded to a special medical board.

“The medical board includes the District Medical Officer, a police surgeon, a public prosecutor, and a medical expert on the suspected cause of death. They give their opinion on the cause of death and whether medical negligence occurred. The board’s report is considered in court along with the post-mortem report and other evidence,” said Aluva deputy superintendent of police V.K. Sanil Kumar.

The medical board, however, is yet another step that delays the time between the reporting of the incident and concluding the investigation. According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, 42 cases under Section 304 A IPC were pending investigation in the State at the end of 2012 (Section 304 A includes death due to negligence in cases of automobile accidents as well).

People also have the option of approaching the consumer courts in case of medical negligence. “In order to get compensated for the damage caused by negligence, people can approach consumer courts. It may sometimes be difficult to prove your case, but some such cases are filed every year and litigants are successful often too. A city hospital was asked to pay over Rs.2 lakh as compensation to a patient a few years ago,” said an advocate in the city.

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