Can doctor be held liable for not rendering a service or facility, which is not available in the hospital?


eMediNexus    17 December 2022

The doctor cannot be held liable for not rendering a facility, which was not available in the hospital. If the hospital knowingly fails to provide some amenities that are fundamental for the patients, then it would certainly amount to medical malpractice; but for the same the doctor cannot be held liable for medical negligence.


In the matter Malay Kumar Ganguly vs Sukumar Mukherjee & Ors. AIR 2010 SC 1162, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has held that: 


“We must bear in mind that negligence is attributed when existing facilities are not availed of. Medical negligence cannot be attributed for not rendering a facility which was not available. In our opinion, if hospitals knowingly fail to provide some amenities that are fundamental for the patients, it would certainly amount to medical malpractice. As it has been held in Smt. Savita Garg (supra), that a hospital not having basic facilities like oxygen cylinders would not be excusable. 


Therein this Court has opined that even the so-called humanitarian approach of the hospital authorities in no way can be considered to be a factor in denying the compensation for mental agony suffered by the parents. The aforementioned principle applies to this case also in so far as it answers the contentions raised before us that the three senior doctors did not charge any professional fees.”


In the matter Savita Garg versus Director, National Heart Institute AIR 2004 SC 5088, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has held that: 


“The patients once they are admitted to such hospitals, it is the responsibility of the said hospital or the medical institutions to satisfy that all possible care was taken and no negligence was involved in attending the patient. The burden cannot be placed on the patient to implead all those treating doctors or the attending staff of the hospital as a party so as to substantiate his claim. 


Once a patient is admitted in a hospital it is the responsibility of the Hospital to provide the best service and if it is not, then hospital cannot take shelter under the technical ground that the concerned surgeon or the nursing staff, as the case may be, was not impleaded, therefore, the claim should be rejected on the basis of non-joinder of necessary parties. In fact, once a claim petition is filed and the claimant has successfully discharged the initial burden that the hospital was negligent, as a result of such negligence the patient died, then in that case the burden lies on the hospital and the concerned doctor who treated that patient that there was no negligence involved in the treatment. Since the burden is on the hospital, they can discharge the same by producing that doctor who treated the patient in defence to substantiate their allegation that there was no negligence. In fact it is the hospital who engages the treating doctor thereafter it is their responsibility.  


The burden is greater on the Institution/ hospital than that of the claimant. The institution is private body and they are responsible to provide efficient service and if in discharge of their efficient service there are couple of weak links which has caused damage to the patient then it is the hospital which is to justify the same and it is not possible for the claimant to implead all of them as parties.”

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