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Legal Remedies for Countering the Menace of False Consumer Complaints against Doctors in India: Lawyers Advice

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Legal Remedies for Countering the Menace of False Consumer Complaints against Doctors in India: Lawyers Advice

In recent times, Consumers have developed a tendency to file misleading and baseless complaints against doctors and hospitals for medical negligence. But doctors don’t need to be always at fault, the consumers or patients can be at fault too in taking the prescribed treatment and medicines suggested by the doctors. When the consumers are themselves negligent, they cannot go to the court and waste time of the judiciary by filing false complaints about the agony they suffer because of their fault.

Section 2(1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 has provided the medical profession has been included under the ambit of ‘service’. All the medical and dental practitioners are included considered as service providers under the act. Therefore the cases against the doctors have increased manifolds in these years which includes frivolous complaints as well. The commission holds a great obligation to punish the doctors and for their negligent act at the same time to safeguard the rights of the doctors from any undue harassment by the hands of patients

In Paramjit Kaur and Ors v. Doaba Hospital Maternity and Surgical Wing and Another (1989) 2 CPR 93, the patient was the cameraman in the Doordarshan Kendra. As he was suffering from fever, he went to the opposite party for the treatment and he was discharged on the same day itself. The discharge slip that mentioned that it was a case of a cerebral hemorrhage. On the way to another hospital, the patient died. The State Commission has held that the complainant was not able to produce proper evidence to support the allegations. The Commission consequently discharged the complaint and directed the complainant to pay damages to the other parties which amounted to Rupees 5,000.

The State Commission has further held that consumers have developed a propensity to rope in doctors in vexatious and false litigation under the garb of the Consumer Protection Act 1986. It may be so, that no court fee is payable on the complaints to be filed under the Consumer Protection Act. By bringing in false litigation, doctors are just taken out of hospitals and brought to the courts. They had to undergo a lot of harassment and they had to waste their precious time.

In another case of Tarun Kumar Pramanik vs. Dr. Kunak Chakraborty and Ors, 1995 (2) CPR 545 (WE SCDRD), the complaint alleged that during the time of the operation for hernia his testis was removed without any consent and as a result he became handicapped. He claimed negligence on the part of the doctors. After considering the expert advice, it was provided that testis was removed to avoid any further infection, and operation was done without any negligence, with due care and caution. The commission provided that the complaint was vexatious and asked them to pay appropriate damages to the other party.

It has become significant to educate the customers on the impact of filing the wrong complaints against the doctors. They need to understand the implications of ill-treating the doctors and filing vexatious complaints against them. This only causes undue harassment to the doctors. Doctors cannot be considered as a tool to obtain an insane amount of compensation.
The judiciary also holds the opinion that the amount of fine imposed for vexatious complaints against the doctors is less and they had to impose the tender amount of 10,000 Rupees because such has been provided under section 26 of Consumer Protection Act 1986. This was held in the case of Bhushan Chimanlala Jain v. Dr. Chandru K.M and Another, Consumer Case No. 2614 of 2017 where NCDRC provided that the complaints deserved the imposition of the exemplary costs but after considering the provisions of the act they were forced to impose 10,000 Rupees.

The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 has provided that no doctor without the proper qualifications can be registered and recognized by the Medical Council and it also provided the process to file a complaint against a medical practitioner in case of any misconduct and negligence. But those regulations do not provide any portal or process to doctors for filing their grievances and harassment faced by them due to the vexatious complaints against them. Also, section 39(1) (d) of the Act provides, that if there is any negligence on the part of the opposite party while providing the services, then they have to submit damages to the opposite party. Like the judiciary, the law-making authorities should take the responsibility to safeguard the interest of the doctors against the false complaints filed by consumers. Due to the vexatious claims and prolonged litigation, the reputation of the doctors is adversely affected even though if the doctors can eventually win the case.

The way to curb the problem of false complaints is to impose deterrent punishments on the false complainants and appropriate compensation has to be provided to the doctors for the mental agony and harassment faced by them. Although the reputation lost by these complaints cannot be reinstated they could be provided with proper compensation for their loss.

Another way to avoid any sort of problem on the part of doctors or patients is better and improved communication between the parties. If the case is crucial both the doctors and the consumers should take extra precautions and avoid any kind of negligence.

To prevent the damage from the false allegations there is a need to introduce the system of proper investigations. Where the case appears to be complicated, a proper expert team should be hired for the investigation and justice should be served as fast as possible so that the reputation of the doctors cannot be inappropriately tarnished. As media is responsible for reporting all such news, the opposite party should also refrain from making any false allegations against the doctors till the time the final investigation is done. Therefore along with the doctors, it is the responsibility of the consumers as well to be less negligent and take all the precautions before going to the court and alleging such vexatious complaints against the doctors.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Bheeni Goyal

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