Recently, two instances of cases being filed against doctors under IPC 336-a criminal act has happened in the subcontinent. Even though both the cases look like therapeutic misadventures the charges are of criminal act, which could result in the imprisonment of the doctors.

The first reported misuse from 28 years ago

The first reported misuse of the Act was against Dr PB Desai- a cancer surgeon and also a Padma Bhushan recipient who was accused by a patient’s husband that the doctor attempted cancer surgery on the patient in December 1987.

Evidence existed on record which showed that the patient was not his. But it was only in September 2013 that the Supreme Court ruled in his favour.

Recent cases

The latest instance of allegation of negligence is in the case of a 37 year old woman who slipped into a coma. She was undergoing fertility treatment at a hospital in Hyderabad. On September 12, she was administered short general anesthesia to harvest ova. But within three hours she was found to be suffering from severe hypoxic brain damage. She remained in a coma till Tuesday.

The woman’s husband lodged a complaint against five doctors involved and a case was registered against them under IPC Section 336.
Another recent incident wherein a case was registered under the section against a doctor happened in Delhi. A resident of Amritsar pressed charges against oncologists in a hospital in Saket, South Delhi alleging negligence. He claimed that he was operated upon for cancer and also reconstructive plastic surgery only to learn later that he doesn’t have cancer. The hospital has denied the allegations, saying they would cooperate with the authorities in the course of the investigation.

Section 336 in The Indian Penal Code states thus:

“Act endangering life or personal safety of others.—Whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred and fifty rupees, or with both.”

Although what the Act stipulates is necessary for the safeguard of the patients, it has become all too frequent for the Act be used in cases of oversight etc.

Image credits: India Today

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