Bombay HC: A Doctor Is Duty Bound to Extend His Service to Preserve People’s Lives

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A division bench of the Nagpur seat of the Bombay High Court consisting of Justice R.K Deshpande and Justice Smt. Pushpa V. Gandediwala took suo moto cognizance of a PIL which was filed to provide adequate medical infrastructural facilities. In this regard, the court gave several directions to the government authorities. 

Facts of the Case

The court took suo moto cognizance through public interest litigation. In this case, the major issue which came before the court was to make oxygenated beds and ventilators available to patients with moderate to serious symptoms of coronavirus. Many newspaper reports showed that because of less availability of beds to the patients, the family of the infected had to travel long distances, but because of non-availability people were dying. The court observed, without going into unnecessary legal technicalities, some solution had to work out in this regard.

Court’s Order

ICMR and other government authorities filed affidavits in regards to the prevailing situation of the availability of doctors and Paramedical staff to treat coronavirus infected patients. The court gave the following orders:

    1. It is the duty of the state to provide all infrastructural facilities to save the lives of the people, and the state cannot argue lack of infrastructure as a reason for not admitting the people. 
    2. The government, semi-government, and private doctors have to extend service during this pandemic whenever they are needed.
    3. Doctors who are 65 years and above who cannot come due to old age problems can advise doctors who are in the hospital via phone or sending prescription through Whatsapp, or through video conference. 
    4. Ayush doctors, PG students, or students of super speciality can be roped up to work under the guidance of their seniors.
    5. The question of the payment of the doctors and Paramedical staff can be settled later as assured by the authorities.  The payment issue cannot act as a condition precedent for asking the services of the doctors.
    6. The duty of the doctors and Para medical staff is recognized in the case of Citizen forum for Equality case which was decided by Bombay High Court recently. Also, the Supreme Court in the case of Pt Parmanand Katara v. Union of India held that a doctor is duty-bound to extend his service with due expertise for protecting life.
    7. There should not be any prohibition on the patient to consult the doctor of their choice and to visit the hospital of their choice.

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