October 23, 2008

Medical negligence cases grow so do ambulance chasing lawyers

Growing awareness amongst public about their consumer rights in events of medical negligence and increasing tribe of 'ambulance chasing lawyers' have contributed to rise in court cases against hospitals, feel experts.

"There are two reasons why the number of medical negligence cases are increasing. First, the awareness among people about their rights against medical negligence. And also in some cases, it is 'ambulance chasing lawyers'. Lawyers encourage patients to file case against the doctor or the hospital in civil or consumer court to earn compensation. Lawyers take a share in return," says Dr Ajay Kumar, former president, Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Lawyers who resort to ambulance-chasing tactics to extract hefty fees from patients has also resulted in rulings on several health-care centres in the country, he adds.

In one of its recent verdicts, the Delhi State Consumer Commission directed a hospital to pay a compensation of Rs one lakh each to families of two patients for carrying out 'unnecessary tests.' The commission said a patient was kept in the hospital for 10 days although the hospital did not have infrastructure to treat the disease.

In another case, a hospital was fined Rs 25,000 for detaining a patient for several hours over non-payment of medical bills.

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