The National Medical Commission (NMC) has reiterated that patients or their kin cannot appeal against decisions of State Medical Councils (SMC) over alleged medical negligence cases, prompting a section of doctors to seek legal recourse.
The commission’s stand was communicated to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by its Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB) through a letter on September 1. The letter, which was in reply to a mail sent by Kannur-based ophthalmologist K.V. Babu to the Ministry, pointed out that only a medical practitioner or professional who is aggrieved by any action taken by SMCs under sub-section (2) may prefer an appeal to the board against such action. The NMC in its meeting held on October 6, 2021, had reiterated that the appeals by “only medical practitioners or professionals” should be allowed before the board under Section 30(3) of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019, and “patients should not be allowed to file appeal before EMRB” under the same section.
All the appeals of non-medical practitioners or professionals which were filed on or after coming into force of all the provisions of the Act, with effect from September 25, 2020, shall be returned, the letter added. The EMRB had earlier told Ritu Verma of Haryana on March 9 that the appeals filed by non-medical professionals to the NMC are “non maintainable”. This was after she approached the commission following her husband’s death due to alleged medical negligence at a Faridabad hospital.
Dr. Babu had urged the Ministry to invoke Section 45 of the NMC Act to exercise its powers and ask the commission to reopen the matter. He had pointed out that the commission’s stand was illegal and against the spirit of a Supreme Court judgement of 2003, based on which clauses protecting the patients’ right to appeal were included in the erstwhile Medical Council of India’s Ethics Regulations, which are still valid.
Dr. Babu said that the NMC had made a mistake in last October apparently out of ignorance of the legal position. “Continuing it even after I submitted all the legal documents related court judgments is a clear offence and contempt of the Supreme Court. This decision will be subjected to judicial scrutiny. A group of doctors including me are planning to file a case,” he said.