The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case where a doctor was accused of medical negligence that in order to initiate criminal proceedings against a qualified doctor, it must be established without doubt that the doctor failed to do something or did something which no other prudent and rational professional would fail to do or do in the same circumstances.

In this case the complainant had accused the doctor of pressurizing him to be present in the delivery clinic and that the he had administered wrong dose of anesthesia which resulted in the death of the child soon after delivery. The bench comprising of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee observed that the loss of consciousness was a natural consequence of anesthetic injection which was given to aid the process of caesarian delivery.

The Bench observed that:

We are of the opinion that loss of consciousness upon administration of anesthesia is but a natural consequence. The complainant himself admits that his wife then regained consciousness at the hospital at Kishangarh. Apparently, there was no fault on part of the appellant. There is no allegation or material annexed to the complaint that the appellant was not a qualified anesthetist or that the anesthesia was administered to the patient in a negligent manner or in improper dosage. The fact that the patient developed complications because of her own bodily infirmity is evident from the fact that a pacemaker had to be installed at the government hospital at Ajmer after which she delivered the child on 26.10.2001. Unfortunately the child did not survive and expired at the hospital at Ajmer on 14.11.2001, after more than two weeks. We find it difficult to accept that the death of the child was a consequence of the anesthesia administered to the patient. There is no material whatsoever with regard to the post mortem report of the child with regard to the cause of death. It cannot be lost sight of that the child survived for more than two weeks. The appellant states that the child was born with the umbilical cord around his neck and response time after delivery was delayed by about seven minutes. There is no rebuttal to this fact. In absence of any prima facie material against the appellant, who is a doctor, it shall not be appropriate to subject him to the travails of a criminal prosecution on vague allegations.

The Supreme Court set aside the cognizance taken by the District Magistrate referring to Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab and entailed the rules for taking cognizance against a medical practitioner under Section 304A of Indian Penal Code, 1908. The criminal appeal was thus, admitted.

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