Side Effects-Implementing Medical-Consumer-Protection-Act in Haste

        Medical consumer protection act was implemented in 1995. Patients defined as consumers and hence doctors converted to service providers in lieu of some money.  Consequently the changed definitions altered the doctor-patient relationship in an irreversible way. Instead of the earlier congenial relationship, now-a day’s doctors and patients are fighting in courts, whereas most of aspects of the law still remain grey after 26 years of implementation. Here in this case even courts differ in the interpretation (among themselves) of the law after more than two decades of its implementation.

        The doctors are supposed to treat, provide relief and save lives are the most affected, it is needless to say that the way of treating patients has been altered like never before. Medical lawsuits and complaints (right or wrong) are breaking medical professionals from within, not to mention the toll it takes on someone’s confidence and belief, which takes a lifetime to build.

   The reality is that neither doctors, nor patients were ready for such a legal relationship, and the system was not robust enough for such a change.  To work with weak infrastructure, non-uniform medical education along with legal threats pushed doctors into a shell and forced defensive practice.  It caused erosion of doctor-patient relationship and escalated cost of care.

   Medical business, insurance and legal industry made full use of the opportunity to have the benefits of changed doctor-patient relationship.  Doctors were used as scapegoats for poor infrastructure by administrators and further exploited by law industry.

   Justice eluded doctors at all stages.

      It is discouraging for medical professionals to note that courts are still clarifying the law even after 26 years of its implementation.  What is more disheartening that many more aspects about the medical-consumer protection act are either remain  unclear and create difficulty for doctors.  To differentiate medical mistakes, poor prognosis from negligence is a very fine line and difficult to judge. Therefore medical profession has  become  a subject to blackmail by patients, lawyers and sitting ducks for punishments. The consequent insecurity among doctors, practice of defensive medicine, enhanced costs, excessive documentation and the distraction from the primary point of intention (treatment)  are few of the  side effects, which will  definitely be passed on to the patients inadvertently.  After all doctors have to save themselves as well.

 Consequently being consumer may be overall a loss making deal for the patients.

     The point to ponder is that courts themselves differ on interpretation of law even after 26 years of its implementation.  

The Supreme Court has reiterated that service rendered by medical officers on behalf of a Hospital, free of cost, would not fall within the ambit of  medical consumer protection act.

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