Patients’ right to appeal absent from NMC’s ethics regulations

The National Medical Commission (NMC) is found to have removed patients’ right to appeal against decisions of State Medical Councils (SMC) in cases related to medical negligence from its Professional Conduct Draft Regulations, 2022, which is in public domain now.

This is significant as the ethics regulations of the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI), the predecessor to the NMC, had provisions that enabled any person to appeal against decisions of SMCs.

Clause 8.8 of the MCI Regulations on Professional Conduct, Etiquette, and Ethics, 2002 says: “any person aggrieved by the decision of the State Medical Council on any complaint against a delinquent physician, shall have the right to file an appeal to the MCI within a period of 60 days from the date of the receipt of the order passed by the said medical council.” This, along with Clause 8.7, were included in the MCI Regulations following a Supreme Court directive in 2004.

Clause 45 of the regulations, released on May 23 to invite suggestions from the public and other stakeholders, however, says that “only registered medical practitioners” have the right to file appeal against decisions of SMCs with the Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB) within 60 days.

K.V. Babu, an ophthalmologist and RTI activist based in Kannur, told The Hindu on Tuesday that the commission cannot just delete clauses included at the behest of the apex court. Dr. Babu had earlier filed a complaint with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare against the EMRB after it turned down the appeal filed by Ritu Varma, a native of Haryana, whose husband died allegedly due to medical negligence in a Faridabad hospital.

The Haryana State Medical Council did not take up her case. The EMRB rejected the plea citing Section 30(3) of the NMC Act, 2019, according to which only doctors are allowed to file appeal against SMC decisions.

“When I recently filed an RTI application seeking the status of my complaint, the Ministry on May 12 asked the NMC to file a reply to me. In less than two weeks, they have issued the draft regulations removing the right to appeal,” said Dr. Babu.

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Printable version | May 24, 2022 7:00:41 pm |