A consumer court has asked a Delhi doctor to pay compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the family of a seriously injured soldier who died outside his clinic two years ago and reminded him of the Hippocratic Oath he had taken to "render help to a dying man".
The Delhi State Consumer Redressal Commission in its recent ruling also asked the Medical Council of India to take appropriate action against Dr A.K. Minocha, who has a clinic in west Delhi's Janakpuri locality.
The commission, headed by Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi, said in its scathing indictment, "It is not only a government doctor who is bound to render help to a dying man. Every doctor is bound by the Hippocratic Oath and must render help to a seriously injured person."
Naik Subedar K.L. Gulyani had died outside Minocha's clinic two years ago after he was attacked by a gang of pickpockets while travelling in a bus. He got off the bus and tried to go home but collapsed right at the doorstep of the clinic.
Minocha, a paediatrician, saw a bleeding Gulyani lying outside his clinic but went back inside to attend to his patient. It was a couple who had come to the clinic who finally tried to help Gulyani.
They brought a stretcher from the nearby Orchid hospital and carried him to the hospital where doctors declared him brought dead.
Gulyani's wife Savita filed a case in the district forum against the Orchid hospital, for failing to help the dying man, and Minocha.
Following the case, the district forum in 2008 awarded compensation of Rs 8 lakh to Gulyani's family – Rs 5 lakh to be paid by the hospital and Rs 3 lakh by the doctor.
The hospital and the doctor filed an appeal in the state commission against the order.
The hospital was absolved of the charges of the medical negligence on the ground that when the patient was brought to the hospital he was already dead.
But it upheld the commission's order against the doctor saying that it was callous and cruel on his part not to help the profusely bleeding Gulyani.
Minocha argued that he was a private doctor and had no obligation to attend to any injured person lying outside his clinic.
The commission rejected the argument citing a Supreme Court ruling that the obligation of every doctor, whether government or not, to protect life was total and absolute.
"The decision of the Supreme Court casts an absolute liability even on a private doctor to save life and in that manner he becomes a service provider to a dying and injured person," said the commission.
In its judgment, it also mentioned the declaration of the World Medical Association on the rights of the patients. According to the declaration, every patient has the right to get treatment in case of emergency and every patient has a right to be referred to a better medical centre for better management.
"If at all Dr Minocha was of the view that the injured person should be shifted to a hospital for proper treatment he failed in his duty as a doctor because he did not render any assistance to the injured person and closed the doors of the clinic," said the commission.