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Medico-legal comments on a doctor’s murder in Tamil Nadu

Dr M C Gupta, a doctor turned lawyer, comments on the recent murder of a doctor by the husband of the patient who died? Dr Gupta holds an MD (Medicine) from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), an LLB from Delhi University and LLM from Kurukshetra University. He has served as a faculty member at AIIMS for 18 years and as professor and dean at the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare. Currently, Dr Gupta is a practising advocate with health and medical law as the area of special interest. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Indian Law Institute.

Dr M C Gupta

What are your comments regarding the recent murder of a doctor by the husband of the patient who died?

You are obviously referring to the following news: “On Monday (January 2) night in Tuticorin, autorickshaw driver Mahesh killed Dr T Sethulakshmi as he thought the doctor was responsible for the death of his pregnant wife, Nithya.”

I am shocked but not surprised. If an IAS officer’s wife loses her purse or mobile phone, the Commissioner of Police will see to it that it is traced within hours. A doctor counts for nothing.

A doctor counts for nothing because genuine grievances of young doctors (students, interns and residents) are ignored by the senior doctors in their capacity as teachers, supervisors and employers. If young doctors grow up pocketing insult and suffering injustice and getting daily lessons from the senior doctors and the politicians regarding their patriotic duty to serve and suffer without expectation of reward or recompense, they lose self-respect and develop a low-lying, passive, negative and pessimistic attitude. Once the whole profession develops that attitude and mentality, a doctor counts for nothing in the eyes of others.

I understand that the Tamil Nadu police have registered an FIR under section 302 of IPC (Indian Penal Code), for the offence of the murder etc but the Tamil Nadu Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2008, has not been invoked.

This Act should have been invoked in addition to the IPC because it has certain stringent provisions, which are not there in the IPC. Both Acts could have been invoked together in terms of Section 7 (TN Medicare Act (48) 2008) reproduced below:

“Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of, any other law for the time being in force.”

The idea about how stringent and wide the provisions are can be had from the following:

I—Section 2(2):

(2) “medicare service person” in relation to a medicare service institution shall include, —

(a) registered medical practitioners (including a person having provisional registration);

(b) registered nurses;

(c) medical students;

(d) nursing students;

(e) para medical workers;

employed and working in such medicare service institutions;”

II– Section 2 (3):

“(3) “property” means any property, movable or immovable or medical equipment or medical machinery owned by or in possession of, or under the control of, any medicare service person or medicare service institution;”

MY NOTE: This can even include hospital records / medical case sheet which is a movable property of the hospital/clinic.

III– Section 2 (4):

(4) “ violence” means activities of causing, any harm, injury or endangering the life or intimidation, obstruction or hindrance to any medicare service person while discharging his duty in the medicare service institution or causing damage or loss to the property.

MY NOTE: It is clear that violence includes even loss to property (even case records) and even “intimidation, obstruction or hindrance to any medicare service person” and these can lead to non-bailable arrest and the stringent minimum three years jail as per sections 3 and 4 given below:

3. Any person either by himself or as a member or as a leader of a group of persons or organization, commits or attempts to commit or abets or incites the commission of any act of violence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to ten years and with fine.

4. Any offence committed under section 3, shall be cognizable and non bailable.

IV—There is even provision of compensation for loss of property without specifying any limit as per section 5, given below:

5. (1) In addition to the punishment specified in section 3, the person shall be liable to pay compensation for the damage or loss caused to the property, as determined by the court.

(2) If the person has not paid the compensation under sub-section (1), the said sum shall be recovered under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Revenue Recovery Act, 1864 as if it were an arrear of land revenue.

The local IMA (Indian Medical Association) should immediately put pressure on the government to register a case under the 2008 Act.

In addition to this specific incidence, the medical profession, in order to prevent violence and injustice against medical profession in future must do the following:

a) IMA, Residents’ Associations, Students’ Unions and Nurses’ Unions etc must have a standing panel of lawyers to advise them about their legal rights and to plan their protests in a legal manner so that strikes etc don’t have to be unceremoniously withdrawn under threats of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) etc or under orders of the High Court in response to PIL (Public Interest Litigation) etc.

b) Medical and paramedical professionals and students must be aware of the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Act of 2008 and invoke them specifically in their complaints to the police. Please note that students and nurses are covered/protected under the Act. They should never hesitate to file police complaints and should not be influenced by threats / false assurances from the teachers/supervisors/employers/political leaders etc.

c) Whenever there is violence and consequent protest/strike by the juniors for a just cause, the seniors must not work against them and the IMA must support them.

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Editor: Readers are welcome to send their medico-legal queries to editor@aalatimes.com and we will try to get them answered by Dr M C Gupta and publish the same on AalaTimes.com. Please mention your full name, designation/specialization and organisation in your email.

7 Comments

  1. Raja Raja Sunday, January 22, 2012

    What nonsense you have written? The doctor has been murder and where she can escape. Don’t write arbitrary comments without knowing what had happened.

  2. Kishori Mohan Ojha Kishori Mohan Ojha Friday, January 13, 2012

    What is this nonsense about an anaesthetist can not perform an emergency procedure in a IUD case?It was done with a purpose to save the life of the mother,unfortunately ,she succumbed to.Don’t even the best centres fail to save such cases despite having the best personnel to do the procedure?It is unfare to blame a well trained and experienced professional duely licensed to work as a physician in a country in which numerous unqualified persons are killing mothers and the foetus attempting to do a ‘criminal abrtion’!AT LEAST THE DOCTOR SHOULD BE SPARED OF ALLEGATION AFTER HER TRAGIC DEATH.

  3. Aravind Aravind Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    If we don’t respect docters will will not live in earth.

  4. S.Kumar S.Kumar Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Though lot of comments have been written, it is to be noted that the doctor has worked in Primary Health Centres as a Government doctor for more than twenty years and have successfully carried out number of delivery cases. the doctor cannot deny admission in Primary Health Centres for pregnant ladies. there is no other go. She got to handle cases. Had the doctor erred in her profession, number of deaths could have resulted in her thirty years of long professional carrier. That is not case. This reveals the doctor is competent to do so. Since, this case is already complicated one and because of repeated requets of the vicitim, the doctor took up the case. Otherwise, she would have become a scape-goat.

  5. Balaji Balaji Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Sir
    What are the legal aspects of an MBBS doctor performing a surgery?
    Or an anesthetist performing a surgery.
    MBBS means Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery – but the exposure to complicated surgeries is definitely not there to any great extent.
    In many cases persons appointed as GDMOs in Govt Service do have experience that are different or more than their qualifications (example a psychiatrist working as a GDMO in Govt service will develop skills required of an internist or even general surgeon).

  6. Sandhya Sandhya Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Dear sir,
    Thanks for the clear perspective in analysing problems of the medical profession. The death of a patient is very much a personal tragedy for a doctor, and may take very long to recover. Many hide behind a facade of false bravado, some take to spirits and get on. There is hardly any physical or emotional support. Often colleagues make it an opportunity for mud-slinging. Local politicians take advantage. The loss to the deceased patients family is profound.There should be a mechanism to investigate thoroughly such situations to the effect that maloccurances and negligences are clearly identified. The devastated relatives should not be made to feel that at the end of the day a doctor will get away with murder.

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