Authors: Shrusti Parida
Certificate: View Certificate
The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is a complete statute enforced in the year 1986 in India to endorse and protect the interests of consumers. Under the statute, six various consumer rights such as the right to be heard, right to education of customer, right to choose, right to seek redress, right to safety, and right to be informed have been incorporated to safeguard the customers. For easy implementation, consumer councils and consumer courts have been incorporated at the district, state, and central levels to resolve the consumers’ grievances. The CPA was implemented in our country as civilians were resisting to approach the civil courts because of the exorbitant court fee and extensive time in delivering final judgment. This Statute has been developed to be customer amiable, as the person does not have to pay a court fee, the person can present their case, and the case is decided within 3 6 months.
The doctor-patient relationship depends vitally on mutual trust and firmly held belief. However, over the decades due to the profit-oriented objective of health care and the medical profession, the profession is now lacking trust. The law was not very dynamic to punish all health care professionals causing injury to the patients but dealt only with negligent acts. The CPA provides a mechanism to protect the rights of the customers and establishes directions for the quick redress of their complaints against fraudulent medical practices.
All service delivered to a patient by a medical practitioner is incorporated under the Statute excluding when the service is rendered free of cost, particularly in charitable or governmental clinics and hospitals, and major health centers. If a patient or the relatives of a patient think that the patient agonized resulting in the death of a patient because of either careless conduct by the concerned doctor or the health facility, they can approach the Medical Council of India or the Consumer Court. The Statute comprises all the medical practitioners and does not restrict itself to the allopathic methodology to make sure that there is responsible conduct and also keeping a check on deceitfulness committed by nonallopathic practitioners.
Despite the increase in the quantum of cases that are filed against medical practitioners since the implementation of the Statute, analysis has disclosed poor consciousness in the medical and dental professionals. Additionally, it has been noticed that the standard of medical services rendered to the ordinary man has also been enhanced vitally since the enforcement of the statute. Thus, there is an enormous requirement to upgrade the knowledge about the statute amid all the patient stakeholders, doctors, and hospital management.
However, before these developments, the need for safeguarding consumers’ rights and interests may be pinpointed under the Law of Torts which is even now equally efficacious and applicable. This clause on concepts, therefore, tries to throw light on the connection of Law of Torts vis-à-vis Consumer Protection with special attention on medical negligence cases. The consumer protection mechanism essentially aims to safeguard against insufficiency in services and fault in goods. Thus, the scrutiny shall mainly be around these facets under the torts law and consumer laws, with the sector-specific resolution of consumer cases.
II. EVOLUTION OF CONSUMER RIGHTS IN INDIA
Consumer rights were acknowledged comprehensively in many ancient Hindu, Islamic, and
Christian religious texts; although, no literary work described them in a nutshell set until the 1960s. Consumer rights in India and the modern world owe their genesis to the consumer revolt of the pre-60s in the United States of America.
In the sphere of Indian medical history, historians have paid more observation to the Indian systems of medicine, their factual and technological facets, and their connection with the Indian notions. However, such writings on Indian medicine have rendered some very useful understanding into the manner medicine was practiced, a structured examination of medical care clauses, and the rules and statutes on it, are yet to be undertaken.
However, the scope of evolution of public health structure points to some sort of state or community planning which authorized the citizens to get entitlement to sanitary public health facilities.
The written proof of the state’s participation and the regulatory function is available from
Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Kautilya considered scantiness as a bigger calamity than pestilence and epidemics, as the remedies can be found for the diseases. He opined that the king should direct the physicians to use medicine to resist epidemics. The Arthashastra also made it compulsory for the doctor to inform the state whenever the doctor is called to a house to operate on a seriously injured person. This is also used to medicate the one suffering from harmful food or drink. If the doctor neglects to render information to the state, he would be charged with the same crime committed by such a patient. For not furnishing correct information to the patient, for committing an error in and for being careless in operating, the Arthashastra renders for punishment, fine, for the doctor, and compensation for victims. Arthashastra is filled with prescriptions of so-called primitive punishments, comprising firm advice for using physical pain for getting information or statement, and even using it for penalizing. While in the field of ancient medical ethics and laws, the code of Hammurabi prescribing “eye-for-eye” punishment for the doctor injuring patients in the treatment is well known, the punishments prescribed and practiced in Kautilya’s time are less known and talked about. Arthashastra is a very definitive and practical book. Its identification of each point of state-craft, economic management, infringements, and the specific and detailed punishments partly read like a code. It has received less attention perhaps because it’s writing on the medical practitioners and their duties are part of crisis management, combating recurring famines and epidemics, and also a part of” consumer” protection in general. When India is still trying to properly codify and implement the doctor’s duty of giving proper information to the patient, the Arthashastra had made it mandatory for the doctor to give information before about medication concerning life and having the aftermath of causing injury.
A failure to give such information invited harsher punishment if the patient died or suffered an injury. It prescribes the following punishment for “negligence” in treatment: Doctor not giving prior information about treatment involving danger to life with the consequence of Punishment prescribed
III. CONCEPT OF CONSUMER PROTECTION
Consumer protection comprising of laws and mechanisms formulated to enforce the rights of consumers along with with-decent trade competition and the free flow of honest information in the forum.
The laws are laid out in a way to avert businesses that involve in fraudulent or specified unprofessional practices from attaining a preference over competitors and may render extra safety for the fragile and those who are helpless to take care of themselves. Consumer protection statutes are a kind of government law that intends to safeguard the rights of consumers. For instance, a government may need businesses to reveal elucidated information about the goods-specifically in areas where protection or public health matters, such as food.
Consumer protection is related to the notion of “consumer rights” (that consumers have different rights as a user of goods and services), and to the establishment of consumer organizations, which aid consumers to make the fair selection in the marketplace and help them in their grievances.
The requirement of taking measures to safeguard the concern of consumers arises primarily owing to the vulnerable state of the consumers. There is no contradiction to the fact that the consumers have the elementary right to be safeguarded from the catastrophe or injury caused due to unwholesome goods and defection services. But they barely use their rights owing dearth of awareness, careless or lethargic viewpoint.
However, because of the rampant negligence and their vulnerability thereto, it is important to render their physical security, safeguard monetary interests, access to information, suitable product quality, and legal measures for the resolution of their complaints.
The other main reasoning in support of consumer protection are as follows:
IV. DEVELOPMENT OF PATIENT RIGHTS IN INDIA
A. Patient as a Consumer
Traditionally, patients in India have unquestioning trust in their doctors. Most doctors deserve it. However, in certain cases, medical carelessness has resulted in aggravated harm in the form of physical, psychological, and financial. In addition, unqualified practitioners have brought suffering to gullible patients. Doctors have been convicted to prosecution in civil court, however, few malpractices sufferers file cases for compensation in which hearing goes for years (even decades) along with expensive litigation costs. Thankfully, the apex Court in 1995 decreed the medical profession to be considered as a “service” within the Consumer Protection Act; 1986. It quashed a Writ Petition filed by the Indian Medical Association.
V. THE PATIENT’S RIGHTS
In the interest of a healthy doctor-patient relationship, A patient should Know his rights as a consumer: This article discusses the patient rights addressing to the patients/readers for better understanding.
A. Committees on Health Services and their Recommendations on Health Laws
During the period of independence, and the primary years of planning, the responsibility challenging the nation was to establish a physical and institutional framework for the accelerated evolution or modernization of India. Consumer safeguard initiatives by the Government based on a criterion. Primarily, assuring a legal regime that consists of the consumer protection act.
Next is, developing a benchmark for various products to facilitate the consumers to make a cognizant choice about various products and services. Standards which are vital in establishing quality, play a chief role in consumer safeguard. Standards could be on the technical requirement (specifications), improved specific standard terminology (glossary of terms), codes of practice or test methods, or management systems standards. The standards are set generally by Government or inter-Governmental bodies but worldwide it is being recognized that voluntary establishment of standards plays an equally important role in protecting consumers.
Thirdly, consumer awareness and education are the main building block for consumer protection. Education is the most capable means for the advancement of the nation and is a social and political requirement. Education aids personas a consumer in making balanced choices and safeguards him from trade and business-related malpractices. But more is needed for the effective functioning of the national market to create an increased level of awareness of consumer rights, and for this consumers have to be vigilant enough about rights and duties through proper awareness campaigns. In the awareness campaigns, special emphasis needs to be given to vulnerable groups such as women and children, students, farmers, and rural families, and the working class.
VI. PATIENT RIGHTS IN INDIA
In the year 2002, the Medical Council of India circulated a Code of Ethics Regulations (COER) which was concerned with the obligations and accountabilities of physicians in addition to the specific rights of patients. It must be highlighted that this regulation does not represent patients’ interests; those stated are incidental to the duties and responsibilities of physicians. A differentiation must, therefore, be established amid a duty-centric method as represented by the COER and the rights-centric way of the AAPS. A medical practitioner may have grievances with the rights-centric approach of AAPS but is obligated to promote the rights of patients that are related to his/her duties. At the time of registration with the Medical Council of India (MCI), all medical practitioners are required to sign a declaration, stating inter alia as follows: ?I shall abide by the code of medical ethics as laid down the Indian Medical Council. The Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) has a more comprehensive charter on its website listing eight specific rights of patients. Interestingly, the CGSI’s regulation does not incorporate the right to refuse medication. Thus, if the doctor decides on a specific procedure, the patient can at the most ask for a second viewpoint. Besides this, the rights of patients are alike in the US and India. However, there is no voluntary recognition for patients’ rights in India, and if they are infringed, the only remedy for patients is to approach the consumer courts. Violation of patients’ rights is not a cognizable offense in India as it is in the US and some other countries. The differences between the responsibilities described in the COER and each point of the CGSI ‘s charter of rights may be worth discussing.
The efficient and effective program of Consumer Protection is of special significance to everyone because everyone is a consumer. Even a producer of service is a consumer of some other goods or services. If both the producers and consumers understand the necessity for coexistence, then, contaminated products, bogus goods, and another dearth of services would be eliminated majorly. The active engrossment and cooperation from all authorities, i.e. the central and state governments, the educational institutions, the NGO’s, the print and electronic media and the acceptance and adherence of a voluntary code of conduct by the trade and industry and the citizen’s charter by the service providers are significant to see that the consumers get their interest. The need of the hour is for absolute assurance to the consumer cause and social impartiality to consumer requirements. There should be no basic quarrel holding that a patient harmed by the treatment rendered by a doctor or a hospital for consideration can claim damages under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Punishment for medical negligence is made conditional on several parameters to serve the longer objective that medical practitioners should conform to the code of medical ethics. It is also established that doctors and hospitals if failing to exercise reasonable skill and care in the treatment of patients entrusting themselves to their care are as much liable to pay the price of negligence as others.
Copyright © 2022 Shrusti Parida. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.