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HomeEducation AbroadMorbi case – An eye opener to medical fraternity

Morbi case – An eye opener to medical fraternity

On 24th October, 2013 in the case, Balaram Prasad v. Kunal Saha & Ors., (2013) 13 SCALE 1, the Hon’ble Supreme Court awarded a compensation of Rs.6,08,00,550 with 6% interest per annum from the date of the complaint to the date of the payment, thereby making this a landmark case where about Rs. 11 crores has been granted as compensation to an individual for a medical negligence case, the highest compensation awarded so far in India. The mindboggling Rs.11 crores compensation led to ramifications in the healthcare sector.

This led to an extra ordinary increase in the filing of negligence cases against the doctors. In many cases, the complainants or victims, in order to avoid payment of hospital bills, especially when the patient dies or has got no or minimal relief, resort to such false complaints, vandalism and even arson so as to get the payment of bills waived off or pay a hefty sum of money as a settlement. The doctors or hospitals on the other hand are asphyxiated to the extent that they are willing to waive the bills or pay a hefty sum of money as a settlement for avoiding any FIRs by the police as it often tarnishes and damages the reputation built by a doctor or hospital over decades as such news of registration of FIRs are printed in ‘bold’ letters on the front pages of Newspapers by scandal friendly news agencies. These cases are of genuine patient being treated by the doctor and not getting relieve from the treatment.

The Morbi case is not of treatment going awry and the patient demanding settlement amount from the doctor but it is about a planned assault on the doctor using negligence as a tool to extort money. Here a criminal wants to exploit the fact that negligence causes unrepairable damage to the reputation of doctors. In Morbi, Ravirajsinh Jadeja, a 25-year-old serial offender systematically planned to exploit this vulnerability of the doctor to extract money from the doctor. In a planned manner Jadeja approached the doctor for treatment, took treatment and then alleged that the treatment has caused him side-effects. He then demanded money and tried to extort money from the doctor. Fortunately the doctor was bold enough to rebut his extortion demands and was willing to call the police which led to the failure of the plan and subsequently which led to the arrest of the Jadeja.

In Morbi the courage of the doctor lead to the failure of the compensation-extortion ploy by Jadeja but many doctors would have succumbed to such pressure. Also, it effectively means that doctors have become soft target wherein anybody can exploit them by using negligence as the tool. The big question “What forces the doctor to succumb to the pressure?” The reply is surely that the apprehension of the doctor image being tarnished by the allegation of negligence leads to the doctors succumbing to the pressure. Negligence case can have dampening effect on the professional career of doctors.   

The resolution to the problem is to place restrictions on the reporting of negligence cases by media. The media should report the criminal / negligence case only when the doctor is held guilty by the court. Also the police should ensure that they do not come to the clinic / hospital for interrogation in a criminal case filed by patient and instead they call the doctors at the police station. This will ensure that the apprehension of doctor image being tarnished in the locality will reduce drastically.

Dr. Bhushan Kedari