( By Dr. Jagdish Singh )

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A heated debate has been going on relating to the pros and cons of the application of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 to the Medical Profession. The Medical Professionals are against the inclusion of patients under the category of consumers. They feel that for them their patients are something more than mere clients or source of profit making. To them the mention of ‘patient’ as ‘consumer’ is nauseating and inclusion of medical services within the ambit of Consumer Protection Act is equivalent to degrading the nobleness of their profession. They feel that in a poor country like ours, this will increase the hardships to the common patient and harassment to doctors.

While agreeing broadly with these aspects, I think doctors should not forget that medical accountability has been existing since the birth of this sacred profession. This accountability has taken the latest shape in the form of Consumer Protection Act.Fears of doctors stem from what is perceived by them as the ‘unknown’ . If this ‘unknown’ becomes ‘known’ the same would appear much less fearsome, in whatever form it exists. This is exactly what I have attempted to achieve through this book.

I have tried to evoke awareness about the Consumer Protection Act as relevant to the Medical Profession. Ethical Codes which are so often lost sight of in our busy day-to-day lives, have been provided. What was the necessity of the Consumer Protection Act and its application to the Medical Profession ? Are there any alternatives ? What are the fears of the Doctors ? These are some of the issues which I have tried to address. Suggestions have been offered regarding precautions one should exercise to avoid problems.Information about Professional Indemnity Insurance Cover which has of late become available also finds place in the book. Synopsis of decided cases on Medical Negligence in India and abroad have been given for the benefit of readers. This will provide an insight into what should be done in order to get protection against legal action.

Human element in medical care sometimes determines the patient’s / attendant’s reaction to an untoward event. Sources of discontent, such as, tactless handling or unnecessary unpleasant remarks, trivial indignation’s are the cause of a large number of legal actions brought against the doctors and the hospitals. I strongly recommend that appropriate behavioural aspects of patient-care should be regularly stressed upon all health-care personnel including all levels of hospital employees.

I wish to express my thanks to many colleagues who, in various ways, have helped and advised me. I am particularly grateful to Shri Bhagwan Atlani who read the first version of this manuscript and offered valuable suggestions. I am also thankful to Dr. ( Mrs.) Usha Sharma, Dr. S.P. Sudhrania, Dr. S.S. Agarwal, Dr . D.L. Sharma, Dr . Bhupendra Singh, IPS, Shir Virendra Dangi, Advocate , Shri Devendra Mohan Mathur, Advocate, Shri Rakesh Kumar, Advocate, and Shri B.L. Manawat who assisted me by reading parts of the manuscript, and offering constructive advice in the preparation of the book.

I am deeply obliged to Sarvshri V.S. Wadhwa and Sushil Wadhwa and the team of Bharat Law Publications for their helpful and patient collaboration and for brining out the book with a high quality printing and get-up.

Above all I wish to thank my wife Dippi and children Jaslok and Harinder for bearing with me during the preparation of this book.

My thanks are due to Shri Damodar Thanvi, Member, Rajasthan State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Jaipur for the encouragement and for giving an opinion about the book.

My thanks are especially due to the Hon’ble Justice Shri K.C.Agarwal, Chief Justice, Rajasthan High Court for sparing his valuable time for writing a Foreword to the book.

I hope a reasonably careful reading of this book will give some comfort to the perturbed doctors and they would find the information valuable. I would welcome any suggestions and criticism which will enable me to improve the contents of the book.

Jaipur, November 25, 1993

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