September-19: Advocacy

Redressal of medical negligence made difficult


In a shocking development for consumers, ‘Healthcare’ has been removed from the list of services mentioned in the draft Consumer Protection Bill, 2019 (CP Bill) passed by the Lok Sabha on 30 July 2019. The Bill when passed and enacted as law will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

In the original Act, the definition of services was considered all inclusive and all services were covered where consumers paid for them. In the early 2019 draft bill, “healthcare” was included in the list defining services. This was reportedly done based on several Supreme Court judgments which said that medical services to patients, for which fees are charged, come under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. However, that bill could not be passed.

 ‘Health Care’ has now been dropped from the list of services in the bill, apparently under pressure from the vast and powerful lobby of medical professionals and institutions. This will allow doctors and hospitals to get away with negligence without fear of litigation. It will also impact patients adversely by affecting quality of medical services delivered to them. . Further, consumer organisations fear that government may remove healthcare services altogether from the CP Act in the future using an exemption clause.

CP Bill without the specific inclusion of ‘Healthcare ‘services, will prevent complaints of medical negligence to be taken to consumer courts and victims will thus have to approach Civil courts for justice. This course of action is extremely difficult for the common consumer. Those from the vulnerable and financially weaker sections of society will suffer the maximum impact as Civil litigation typically involves complicated procedures, high legal costs and long delays, which virtually amounts to denial of justice to consumers.

As a case in point, a poor widow with children would never get justice for her husband dying from medical negligence as she would be too intimidated by dealing with the legal system and moreover wouldn’t be able to afford a civil court case.

Consumer organisations and NGOs across the country are protesting against this step and urging the government to reconsider. CERC and other major Consumer Organisations have taken the initiative to write to the Minister of Consumer Affairs and the PMO requesting reinstatement of ‘healthcare’ services in the Bill and have also sought an appointment for a meeting.


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