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Madras High Court : Withholding medical records from patient is breach of “Patients Right” & amounts to professional misconduct

Madurai : The single judge bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan of Madras High Court while partly allowing a writ petition has observed that withholding medical information from the patients or attendees would amount to professional misconduct resulting in tortious liability. Justice G.R. Swaminathan held that, “Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution includes within its sweep the right to receive information. Obviously, a patient is entitled to invoke this right. In any event, following the promulgation of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the government hospitals can no longer withhold information from the patients or their attendants. Withholding would amount to professional misconduct and result in tortious liability as it constitutes an infringement of the patients’ rights.”

The petitioner got admitted to G H Mudukulathur for delivery and gave birth to a female child by normal delivery. Due to asphyxia, the mother and child were referred to Government Hospital, Paramakudi, and later to Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai. Despite all efforts the child passed which led to the petitioner alleging medical negligence against the doctor for not performing cesarean operation and opting for normal delivery.

The Court examined the petitioner’s claims and the evidence presented and concluded that the doctors’ decision for a normal delivery was reasonable based on the available information. The court reminded that a departmental inquiry was conducted, and the complaint of the petitioner was rejected. The Court acknowledged respondents’ claim that some of their records were missing and that police complaint was lodged long back. The Court in this regard remarked that if the information had been stored digitally, it would have been possible to retrieve and access them at any point of time.

“The failure to furnish information by the authorities of G.H, Mudukulathur does constitute an infringement of the petitioner’s right.” The Court further acknowledged the petitioner’s claims of ill-treatment by paramedical staff. The Court criticized the unavailability of ventilator support at the Paramakudi hospital, which forced the petitioner to travel, causing additional strain. The Court thus ordered compensation of Rs. 75,000 to be paid by the first respondent within eight weeks. Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the Petition.