Misinterpretation of Section 304A IPC vis-a-vis 304IPC in medical Negligence cases – Deliberate or Inadvertent?
Keywords:Medical negligence, Culpable Homicide, Gynaecologist, Delivery, High Court, Supreme Court
Negligence is specific tort and in any given circumstances is the failure to exercise that care which the
circumstances demand. What amounts to negligence depends on the facts of each particular case. The degree
of care required in a particular case depends upon the surrounding circumstances, and may vary according
to the amount of risk to be encountered and to the magnitude of the prospective injury. A basic knowledge of
how judicial forums deal with the cases relating to medical negligence is of absolute necessity for doctors.
The need for such knowledge is more now than before. In light of higher premium being placed by the Indian
Forums on the value of human life and suffering, but sometimes misinterpretations are done deliberately
or inadvertently when the doctors are charged for culpable homicide not amounting to murder (304 IPC)
instead of medical negligence (304 A IPC). A case of medical negligence is being discussed in which a
gynaecologist has been charged for 304IPC instead of 304A IPC. The scenario was that, the patient died after
readmission in private hospital, who had delivered a healthy baby, managed properly and discharged by the
Gynaecologist and suffered undiagnosed complications after discharge at home. The charge was framed that
the doctor was absent from the hospital and the case was handled by nurses on telephonic conversation with
doctor. Earlier also the doctors had been prosecuted under 304IPC instead of 304A IPC in lower courts and
even high courts (e.g. Jacob Mathews V. State of Punjab, Dr. Suresh Gupta V. Govt. of NCT Delhi). But in
many cases, finally Supreme Court set aside the judgement of high court and held that the doctors could not
be criminally prosecuted.
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