October 03, 2008

As Supreme Court raps, Centre says doctors can’t deny care to HIV+

Doctors who refuse to treat HIV/ AIDS patients will be sternly dealt with, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday. However, during the hearing on a PIL related to the matter, the court observed that the Government is not doing enough to improve the public healthcare system.
During the hearing of a PIL highlighting apathetic treatment and lack of facilities for HIV/ AIDS patients across the country, the three-member Bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, on Wednesday remarked, “In rural India, there are hardly any doctors. Even in a 50-bed hospital not a single doctor is available. It’s only on paper.”

As Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium informed the court that the Government has recently asked all the state governments to improve healthcare facilities, and that primary health centres were working satisfactorily in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the court shot back, “Go and check in any Government hospital in Delhi, Bihar and UP.”

Trying to convince the Bench about the ‘remedial’ measures taken at the highest level to deal with instances of refusal to persons living with HIV/ AIDS (PLHA) or non-availability of basic medicines or treatment for them, the Government counsel said all the states have been asked to implement the office memorandum sent to them recently. According to the office memorandum, “All doctors, nurses and hospital staff, whether in the public or private sector shall treat PLHAs in a professional and humane manner, treating them always with dignity and care. No doctor or nurse shall refuse to treat a PLHA on account of his/her positive status. In treating a PLHA there shall be no discrimination or stigma whatsoever.” It also suggested taking stringent steps against any doctor who refuses to treat any HIV/ AIDS patient.

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