ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Getting Involved to Save Lives

Hospitals and doctors cannot demand payment before they treat accident victims and women in labour.

The Union Ministry of Health is planning to make it compulsory for all hospitals and doctors to treat accident v­ictims and women in labour regardless of whether initial payments for treatment have been made or not. This is a long overdue step. In 2006, the Law Commission of India had ­devoted the entire 201st report to this aspect and even drawn up a draft model law. The draft categorically required doctors and hospitals to treat such patients without seeking recourse to the excuse that the medico-legal formalities need to be ­attended to and that payment was to be made first. Even more significantly, the Supreme Court (SC) too has passed a landmark judgment on this issue.

In emergency trauma care, victims of accidents who get medical attention in the first 60 minutes, termed the “golden hour”, have the highest and best chance of survival. In India, however, as the Indian Journal of Surgery has said in its 2006 report, more than 80% victims of trauma do not get care in that crucial period. The reasons are many: lack of public awareness about steps to take in the event of an accident or disaster, delays in transporting victims to the nearest medical facility, fear of getting involved in cumbersome legal/police enquiries and the r­efusal of doctors and hospitals to treat such patients before the paperwork is completed and the initial fees are paid.

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