SUPREME COURT HAS HELD A HOSPITAL VICARIOUSLY LIABLE FOR THE MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE COMMITTED BY ITS DOCTORS

On 17th December, 2019, the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Indu Malhotra in the matter of Maharaja Agrasen Hospital vs. Master Rishabh Sharma has held that a hospital is vicariously liable for the act of medical negligence committed by its doctors.

The Apex Court held that, “A medical profession should be alert to the hazards and risks in any professional task he undertakes to the extent that other ordinarily competent members of the profession would be alert. He must bring to any professional task he undertakes reasonable skill that other ordinarily competent members of his profession would bring”.

The Hospital was held vicariously liable for medical negligence of its doctors who allegedly failed to carry out the mandatory checkup of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) of a pre- term baby, which led to his total bindless. The Supreme Court also referred to Bolam Test and held that reasonable and prudent care should have been taken in treating a premature baby.

It is obvious that a patient goes to the hospital on the account of goodwill of the hospital with presumption that due care will be taken while conducting a medical treatment, and if the hospital fails to discharge its duties through its experienced doctors, then the hospital along with its doctors would be vicariously liable for medical negligence.

The Supreme Court further discussed the following elements of medical negligence, i.e. breach of duty of care towards a patient either by an act or omission-

  1. A legal duty of care as a part of medical profession
  2. A failure of duty as a doctor to inform the patients of any risk involved
  3. Patient suffers as a result of the negligence so caused
  4. Breach of such duty of care would give rise to actionable claim of medical negligence.

The Bench awarded a compensation of Rs 76,00,000/- to the Aggrieved and his mother and further held that “The grant of compensation to remedy the wrong of medical negligence is within the realm of law of torts. The said principle provides that a person is entitled to damages which should as nearly as possible get that sum of money which would put him in the same position as he would have been if he had not sustained the wrong.”

Aakritee Gambhir

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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