Legal Provision Regarding Safety and Security of Patients in India

Ill effects of treatment or complications, are not completely controllable and do happen sometimes adding to the patients suffering

Compromise of physical safety of the patient, however, is never expected and always comes, if it does, as a rude shock, causing indignation and adding insult to injury.

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Legally, it is the responsibility of hospital management to ensure the safety of patients.

It is taken for granted as a right of the patient that the hospital management would realize their responsibility and do everything possible to protect the patient from any hazards or physical injuries to his person.

Under Sections 336, 337, 338 and 304A IPC, a hospital would be liable for any act endangering the life or personal safety of patients or public and causing any hurt or death.

Similarly Sections 285, 286 and 287 (negligent conduct with respect to fire, explosives and machinery, respectively) hold the hospital accountable for any injury to patients or public due to negligent conduct by the hospital.

Section 376D (Intercourse by any member of the management or staff of a hospital with any woman in that hospital) is to protect the safety of women against sexual exploitation by management or staff in the hospital premises.

In the judgment of Punjab High Court in case of Jasbir Kaur Vs the State of Punjab, involving disappearance, mutilation and death of a new born baby from the bed in Sri Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Amritsar, a presumption of negligence was raised against the hospital authorities by the court and they were held liable to pay compensation of Rs 1, 00,000 to the parents of the child.

A similar judgment was passed by the Delhi High Court in the case Sudha Devi Vs the Govt. of NCT of Delhi involving the kidnap of a new born baby from Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi in July 2003.

The court had held that: “It was the duty of hospital authorities to take effective measures to secure the ward, ensure it was watched and protected from unauthorized persons.

However, in spite of the legal provisions so abundantly clear, managements of many hospitals are not fully alive to their responsibility.

Incidents of babies burnt alive in incubator fires, thefts/swapping of babies, assault/rape of female patients, injuries to patients due to slip/trip or fall or suicidal jumps from the terraces, accidental injuries due to erratic functioning of lifts or fires due to unsafe electrical installations, keep happening in the hospitals.

Hospitals, in India are often in the news for the wrong reasons related to violations of patient safety and, in spite of the public outcry, the hospitals have, by and large, failed to display adequate concern so far.

Safety of patients, public and staff is too important an issue and must be ensured, if necessary, by stringent regulations.