For doctors to keep away from being dragged to courts in medico legal cases (MLCs), the yardstick is to act in good faith, B.V. Pinto, judge, Karnataka High Court, has said.

Mr. Pinto was interacting with medical students after inaugurating a seminar on “Medicine, ethics and legal issues” at Father Muller Medical College (FMMC) here on Friday.

“Be truthful in writing case sheets,” he told the students (about recording the details of MLCs.) He said in Dharwad recently, a doctor refused to treat a woman, who gave birth to a child as bribe was not given. The act of omission, of not giving treatment, was seen as criminal negligence. “For not doing something also, you (doctors) are liable,” he said.

When a medical student asked what happened when hospitals insisted on filling forms before a patient got medical attention. Was life more important or filling the form?, Mr. Pinto said that in such cases, the court would be guided by (the principles) of equity, good conscience and fairness. If the doctor proved that it (an action) was done in good faith, to save the life (liberty and health) of a person, then the court would not punish him. There could be exceptions such as the patient dying by the time the doctor returned with the form. On the other hand, the doctor could overlook the form and be thrown out of the hospital for that but he had done his job, he said.

Leonard Machado, associate professor, Department of Public Health, Manipal University, said: “It's absolutely wrong.” A patient can lodge a case against the hospital for not providing medical attention. “Formats come later,” he said.

Nagesh K.R., professor and head of the Department of Forensic Medicine, said the patient must be treated and nowhere was it written that forms should be filled first. Speaking on “legal responsibility in medical practice”, he said doctors should document information in MLC register in the hospital. Documentation should be done as quickly as possible.

When a student asked what happened if a child did not want to undergo surgery but his parents wanted him to do so, Mr. Pinto said that it was the human right of a parent to make choices in respect of his child.

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