|(2013) 9 SCC 496
|DATE OF JUDGMENT
|1st SEPTEMBER , 2013
|SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
|DASARI SANTAKUMARI & ANR
|SURINDER SINGH NIJJAR,ANIL R. DAVE
In the case of A.Srimannarayana vs Dasari Santakumari & Anr, the Supreme Court of India held that the standard of care required of medical professionals is that of a “reasonably competent” doctor in the same field of specialization. The court also held that criminal prosecution of medical professionals for negligence is only permissible in cases of gross or wanton negligence.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- The case arose from the death of a patient, Dasari Santakumari, who was admitted to a hospital with a cardiac condition. The patient was treated by Dr. Srimannarayana, a cardiologist.
- Dr. Srimannarayana prescribed medication for the patient, but the patient’s condition deteriorated. The patient was later transferred to another hospital, where she died.
- The patient’s husband filed a complaint with the State Medical Council, alleging that Dr. Srimannarayana had been negligent in his treatment of the patient.
- The Medical Council found that Dr. Srimannarayana had committed professional misconduct and suspended his license for two years.
- The patient’s husband then filed a criminal complaint against Dr. Srimannarayana, alleging that he had caused the patient’s death by negligence. The trial court convicted Dr. Srimannarayana of the charge and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.
- Dr. Srimannarayana filed an appeal in Supreme Court
- Whether Dr. Srimannarayana met the expected standard of care for a cardiologist in treating Dasari Santakumari?
- Whether Dr. Srimannarayana’s actions amount to negligence, causing or contributing to Dasari Santakumari’s death?
- Whether the medical professionals be criminally prosecuted for negligence, or should civil remedies suffice?
CONTENTIONS OF APPELLANT
- The appellant, Dr. A. Srimannarayana, argued that he had not been negligent in his treatment of Dasari Santakumari. He contended that he had followed the standard of care expected of a reasonably competent cardiologist, and that he had not acted with gross or wanton negligence.
- Dr. Srimannarayana argued that he had prescribed the appropriate medication for Ms. Santakumari’s condition and had monitored her condition closely and taken steps to address any concerns.
- The appellant also contended that Ms. Santakumari’s condition was complex and challenging, and even the best medical care could not have guaranteed her survival.
- The appellant, Dr. A. Srimannarayana, argued that the trial court had erred in convicting him of criminal negligence in the death of Dasari Santakumari. He contended that he had met the standard of care required of a reasonably competent cardiologist in treating the patient.
- The appellant further argued that the trial court had erred in placing the burden of proof on him to prove that he had not acted with gross negligence. He argued that the burden of proof should have been on the prosecution to prove that he had acted with gross negligence beyond a reasonable doubt.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
- The respondent, the husband of Dasari Santakumari, argued that the trial court had correctly convicted Dr. A. Srimannarayana of criminal negligence. He contended that the doctor had acted with gross negligence in the treatment of his wife, and that his negligence had caused her death.
- The respondent’s contended that the doctor had failed to properly diagnose the patient’s condition and that the doctor had prescribed the wrong medication for the patient.
- Respondent’s further argued that the doctor had not taken appropriate action when the patient’s condition deteriorated.
- The respondent also argued that the trial court had correctly placed the burden of proof on the doctor to prove that he had not acted with gross negligence. He argued that the doctor, as a medical professional, had a higher duty of care to his patients, and that he should be held to a higher standard of proof.
The Supreme Court of India delivered its judgment in the case of A.Srimannarayana vs Dasari Santakumari & Anr on January 9, 2013. The court overturned the conviction of Dr. A. Srimannarayana, a cardiologist, who had been found guilty of criminal negligence in the death of Dasari Santakumari.The court held that the standard of care required of medical professionals is that of a “reasonably competent” doctor in the same field. The court also held that criminal prosecution of medical professionals for negligence is only permissible in cases of “gross or wanton negligence.”
In the case of Dr. Srimannarayana, the court found that he had met the standard of care required of a reasonably competent cardiologist. The court found that he had prescribed the appropriate medication for the patient’s condition, monitored the patient’s condition closely, and taken appropriate action when her condition deteriorated.The court also found that the patient’s condition was complex and even the best medical care could not have guaranteed her survival.
The court’s decision in this case is a landmark judgment that has had a significant impact on the medical profession in India. The judgment provides clarity on the standard of care required of medical professionals and the circumstances in which criminal prosecution is permissible. It also helps to strike a balance between protecting patient safety and protecting medical professionals from unfair prosecution.
This Article is written by Pari Gupta student of Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.
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