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It is important to understand the general principles regarding medical negligence. “According to Charlesworth & Percy on Negligence (Tenth Edition, 2001), in current forensic speech, negligence has three meanings. They are:
- A state of mind, in which it is opposed to intention
- Careless conduct
- The breach of duty to take care that is imposed by either common or statute law.
The essential components of negligence, as recognized, are three: “Duty”, “breach” and “resulting damage”, that is to say:-
- The existence of a duty to take care, which is owed by the defendant to the complainant
- The failure to attain that standard of care, prescribed by the law, thereby committing a breach of such duty
- Damage, which is both causally connected with such breach and recognised by the law, has been suffered by the complainant (Para 1.23).
If the claimant satisfies the Court on the evidence that these three ingredients are made out, the defendant should be held liable in negligence (Para 1.24).” [The Managing Director vs Santhi on 23 February, 2017 Madras High Court]
A doctor can be held liable for negligence only if one can prove that he/she is guilty of a failure that no doctor with ordinary skills would be guilty of if acting with reasonable care.
The basic principle relating to medical negligence is known as the Bolam rule… A man need not possess the highest expert skill..... It is well-established law that it is sufficient if he exercises the ordinary skill of an ordinary competent man exercising that particular art.” [National Consumer Disputes Redressal Manish Sood vs Dr. J.S. Arora, Holy Family ... on 1 August, 2001]
The Supreme Court has ruled in a judgment “…A medical practitioner is not liable to be held negligent simply because things went wrong from mischance or misadventure or through an error of judgment in choosing one reasonable course of treatment in preference to another.
He would be liable only where his conduct fell below that of the standards of a reasonably competent practitioner in his field…”