Week after SC's damages award, IMA wants doctors out of consumer law’s ambit

IMAA week after the SC's landmark compensation of Rs 5.96 crore in a case of medical negligence, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) asked law ministry to withdraw medical services from the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. (Reuters)

A week after the Supreme Court awarded a landmark compensation of Rs 5.96 crore in a 15-year-old case of medical negligence, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to ask the law ministry to withdraw medical services from the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The CPA allows people with complaints against doctors to move consumer courts. The IMA, the nodal body of medical practitioners in the country, wants that a medical tribunal be set up instead, with medical experts under a judicial officer to hear such complaints.

Dr Narender Saini, secretary general of IMA, said, "Health is not a concept that can be broken down in mathematical terms like any other commodity. Despite clinical experience and diagnostics, there is at least a 10 to 15 per cent chance of error. While judicial officers can identify obvious medical malpractices, subject knowledge is necessary to distinguish between a medical accident and medical negligence, and only a doctor can have that."

Dr K Vijaykumar, national president of the IMA, said the association will submit a memorandum to the law ministry this month. "We will submit a memorandum at the earliest. We are also exploring other options to see how we can push our case," he said.

Dr Vijaykumar added that the IMA is also seeking legal opinion to explore if it can become a party to the review petition that Kolkata-based AMRI Hospitals and its doctors are likely to file against the compensation order.

On October 24, the Supreme Court asked the hospital and some doctors to pay damages of Rs 5.96 crore to US-based Dr Kunal Saha whose wife Anuradha Saha died due to medical negligence in 1998. Saha had moved the SC against the National Consumer Forum award of Rs 1.72 crore compensation.

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