A visit to a doctor in India is commonly considered expensive, whereas doctors are seen as inaccessible and even unavailable. The alternative in this scenario is the local chemist.
People often ask the chemist for medication based on their symptoms, who unfailingly obliges. From headaches to sprains and infections, the local chemist dispenses medicines without batting an eyelid. I have a well-meaning aunt who by virtue of having raised three children doles out medical advice and medicines for toddlers as any qualified doctor would.
Well-meaning as they are, these pseudo-doctors can now be booked for prescribing medicines without qualifications and adequate diagnosis.
Oddly enough, this judgement came about while the courts convicted a doctor couple for prescribing medication without a diagnosis.
Facts of the case: This comes in the aftermath of the death of a woman in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
The said woman was admitted to a hospital in Ratnagiri in February, where she underwent a caesarean surgery and gave birth to a baby. Since all her vitals were normal, the mother and the baby were discharged two days later.
However, a day after her discharge, the woman fell sick, and her relatives called Dr Deepa Pawaskar, who told them to go to a local chemist and let her speak with him over the phone. Despite taking the medication, the woman did not feel better and hence was taken to the hospital where she delivered her baby. The doctor couple who operated upon the woman were unavailable but asked the woman to be admitted.
The next day, her condition further deteriorated, and she was shifted to another hospital. Unfortunately, she died there.
According to a report in India Today, the court in its order noted, “There was no resident medical officer or any other doctor to look after the patient in the absence of Deepa and Sanjeev Pawaskar even when the couple knew that they would not be available in the hospital.
“Prescription without diagnosis would amount to culpable negligence. This amounts to gross negligence from the point of standard of care and recklessness and negligence, which is a tricky road to travel.”
Observing that prescribing medicines to patients without a diagnosis amounts to culpable negligence, the Bombay High Court has turned down anticipatory bail pleas of the doctor couple booked for the death of the woman patient.
Let’s hope that this judgement serves as a deterrent to those indulging in such acts.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)