The National Steering Committee to review ethical and legal perspectives of healthcare in India recently held its first meeting in Bangalore. The committee, consisting of all major medical and hospital associations, reiterated that as health professionals all effort should be made to ensure provision of quality, ethical, easily accessible and affordable health care to all.
Led by the Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the committee said that healthcare professionals should ensure patients get standardized care. The members also discussed how communicating with patients and their kin was one area that needed major improvement. The members discussed how accepting and offering commissions was an outright unethical practice and indirectly responsible for the increased cost of healthcare.
The body has representation from the Association of National Board Accredited Institutions (ANBAI), Academy of Hospital Administration (AHA), Association of Physicians India (API), Association of Surgeons of India (ASI), Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Indian Orthopedic Association (IOA), Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA), among other bodies.
In the meeting, an increase in litigations against doctors was extensively discussed. Members noted that these verdicts have led to a significant increase in the premiums paid to insurance companies. They also felt it was responsible for doctors shying away from treating complicated cases.
One solution discussed by the committee was that it may be desirable to place a cap on the amount that can be awarded in cases of medical negligence, as practiced in countries such as the US. “Capping could be a reasonable and balanced solution. Current compensations awarded for negligence is unsustainable,” said Dr Marthandam Pillai, president, IMA.
Renowned cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty said that 80% of hospital births in India are in hospitals or nursing homes which have 30 or less beds. “These smaller health care facilities in rural and semi-urban areas may have to shut operations if subjected to frivolous and exorbitant lawsuits,” he said. Dr Alexander Thomas, executive director of AHPI mentioned that over the last few months, IMA and AHPI have set up a working group to tackle the issue. Other suggestions were to set up arbitration centers in hospitals, appointing an Ombudsman in each state, etc.