Question: Discuss the criminal liability of a Medical Practitioner in a matter arising out of alleged negligence as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and another, reported in (2005) 6 SCC 1. [U.P.H.J.S. 2014] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Discuss the criminal liability of… Read More »

Question: Discuss the criminal liability of a Medical Practitioner in a matter arising out of alleged negligence as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and another, reported in (2005) 6 SCC 1. [U.P.H.J.S. 2014] Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Discuss the criminal liability of a Medical Practitioner in a matter arising out of alleged negligence as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of...

Question: Discuss the criminal liability of a Medical Practitioner in a matter arising out of alleged negligence as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and another, reported in (2005) 6 SCC 1. [U.P.H.J.S. 2014]

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Discuss the criminal liability of a Medical Practitioner in a matter arising out of alleged negligence as explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and another…]

Answer

The case of Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab, (2005) 6 SCC 1, specifically deal with the cases of rash and negligent act involving medical practitioners and the medical profession.

Brief Facts of the case are as follows:

A patient named Jiwan Lal was admitted to a private ward in CMC Hospital, Ludhiana. At 11 pm on the date 22-02-1995, the patient suddenly had difficulty in breathing. His elder son, Vijay Sharma called the nurse and doctor after seeing his father’s condition. No doctor turned up for about 20-25 minutes. After that, Dr. Jacob Mathew and Dr. Allen Joseph came to the room for the patient.

The patient was immediately connected with an oxygen cylinder to his mouth but the problem increased nevertheless. Apparently, the oxygen cylinder was found to be empty and no other oxygen cylinder was available. Vijay Sharma went to the adjoining room and brought another gas cylinder.

In the midst of this, around 5-7 minutes were wasted. During this, the doctor confirmed that the patient is dead. The younger son, Ashok Kumar Sharma filed a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 304A read with Section 34 of the IPC.

Judgment:

Reverting back to the facts of the case before us, we are satisfied that all the averments made in the complaint, even if held to be proved, do not make out a case of criminal rashness or negligence on the part of the accused appellant. It is not the case of the complainant that the accused-appellant was not a doctor qualified to treat the patient whom he agreed to treat.

It is a cause of the non-availability of oxygen cylinders either because of the hospital having failed to keep available a gas cylinder or because of the gas cylinder being found empty. Then, probably the hospital may be liable in civil law (or may not be – we express no opinion thereon) but the accused-appellant cannot be proceeded against under Section 304-A of IPC on the parameters of Bolam’s test.

(Bolam’s Test: It is the test carried out to determine whether a doctor or a medical practitioner has breached his duty regarding the care of the patient. The Bolam Test was established from the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee, 1957)

Because professional negligence requires different standards when compared to any other negligence and must be judged from a perspective of an ordinary skilled person in that profession, the liability of a medical practitioner stands on a different footing under section 304A.

The court opined that ‘negligence in the context of medical profession necessarily calls for a treatment with a difference…a case of occupational negligence is different from one of professional negligence.’ Delving into the liability of a doctor for his rash or negligent act leading to the death of his patient, it ruled that:

Medical professionals may be held liable for negligence on one of the two findings:

  • either he was not possessed of the requisite skill which he professed to have possessed, or
  • he did not exercise, with reasonable competence in the given case, the skill which he did possess.

The standard to be applied for judging, whether the person charged has been negligent or not, would be that of an ordinary competent person exercising ordinary skill in that profession.


Important Mains Questions Series for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

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Updated On 2021-07-21T08:35:41+05:30
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