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5.2 million medical malpractice cases reported in India annually

Medical malpractice happens daily in hospitals, clinics, and other care settings throughout India. Research from the National Library of Medicine, published in 2022, shows an alarming annual incidence rate of up to 5.2 million cases related to medical malpractice across various healthcare settings in India.

“This reflects a sharp 110% increase over time, with medical litigation cases seeing a staggering 400% surge,” says Deepanker Mahajan, CEO and Founder of CoverYou.

A study from the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics reveals that only 46% of healthcare providers comply with ethical guidelines.

The alarming statistics

  • Annual medical malpractice in India hits 5.2 million cases.
  • Incidences increased by 110%; litigation surged by 400%.
  • Only 46% of providers follow ethical guidelines.
  • 80% of medical error deaths are due to surgical mistakes.
  • 70% of emergency fatalities stem from mismanagement.
  • Highest malpractice rates in Punjab (24%), then West Bengal (17%), Maharashtra (16%), and Tamil Nadu (11%).

What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice refers to negligence by a professional healthcare provider—be it a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital, or hospital worker. This negligence deviates from the accepted standard of care compared to similarly trained and experienced providers, often resulting in harm to a patient.

The impact of surgical errors
“Surgical procedures are notably responsible for about 80% of deaths caused by medical errors. These often stem from communication failures or coordination gaps within healthcare teams, not necessarily from incompetence or ignorance,” explains Deepanker Mahajan. He further notes that nearly 70% of fatalities during emergencies are due to mismanagement.

Mahajan highlights the uneven impact across the states, “In 2016, Punjab reported the highest incidence at 24%, followed by West Bengal at 17%, Maharashtra at 16%, and Tamil Nadu at 11%.”

Legal steps in pursuing a medico-legal claim
Utsav Trivedi, Managing Partner at TAS Law, outlines the process for filing a medico-legal claim:

  1. Seeking legal advice: Initially, consult a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice to determine the validity of your claim and to get professional guidance.
  2. Gathering evidence: Collect all relevant medical records, test results, and other documents related to the treatment or injury.
  3. Consulting medical experts: Engage medical experts to review the care provided and to offer opinions on whether it met standard practices.
  4. Filing a complaint: As per Regulation 38 of the National Medical Commission, the aggrieved party must file a complaint with the State Medical Council via online or offline methods within two years of the incident.
  5. In case of incapacity or death: Regulation 39 allows for complaints to be filed by relatives or legal representatives if the aggrieved is incapacitated or deceased.
  6. The appeals process: “Following a decision, either party may appeal, which can significantly extend the duration and complexity of the legal proceedings,” adds Kunal Veer Chopra, Associate at SKV Law Offices. He stresses the importance of expert legal representation during this challenging time.

Challenges in the medico-legal claim process
Individuals filing medico-legal claims often encounter several significant obstacles. “The main issues for complainants are gaining access to medical records that document the treatment provided and systemic delays that slow the resolution of cases,” explains Ashwin Sapra, Partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.

Understanding medical and legal jargon
Many people struggle with the medical and legal terminology involved in their cases. This lack of familiarity can be daunting, making it difficult to communicate effectively with professionals and understand their rights’ intricacies and the necessary legal steps.

The emotional and financial cost
Kunal Veer Chopra highlights the broader implications of pursuing a legal claim. “The emotional and physical impact of the initial medical issue, combined with the stress of a lengthy and expensive legal process, can be overwhelming. It requires significant resilience and dependable legal support to navigate these challenges effectively.” Business Standard

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