Doctor’s liability in medical negligence cases

September 01, 2018
By Advocate Chikirsha Mohanty

Medical malpractice and negligence is a special kind of personal injury case brought against hospitals, Doctors, nurses or other medical professionals. Medical negligence arises from an act or omission by a medical practitioner, which no reasonably competent and careful practitioner would have committed.

Those who suffer from a medical malpractice injury may be able to hold the medical care provider(s) responsible for that injury liable under the special rules that apply to this type of professional negligence.

Liability under the Consumer Protection Act

The Supreme Court decision in Indian Medical Association v VP Shantha brought the medical profession within the ambit of a 'service' as defined in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This transformed the relationship between patients and medical professionals as contractual. Patients who had sustained injuries in the course of treatment could now sue doctors in 'procedure-free' consumer protection courts for compensation.

The Consumer Protection Act will not come to the rescue of patients if the service is rendered free of charge, or if they have paid only a nominal registration fee. However, if patients' charges are waived because of their incapacity to pay, they are considered to be consumers and can sue under the Consumer Protection Act.

Liability under tort law

Where the Consumer Protection Act ends, the law of torts takes over and protects the interests of patients. This applies even if medical professionals provide free services.

The onus is on the patient to prove that the doctor was negligent and that the injury was a consequence of the doctor's negligence. Such cases of negligence may include transfusion of blood of incorrect blood groups, leaving a mop in the patient's abdomen after operating, unsuccessful sterilisation resulting in the birth of a child etc.

Liability under criminal law

 A doctor can be punished under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for causing death by a rash or negligent act, say in a case where the death of a patient is caused during operation by a doctor not qualified to operate. The standard of negligence required to be proved against a doctor in cases of criminal negligence (especially that under Section 304A of the IPC) should be so high that it can be described as 'gross negligence' or 'recklessness', not merely lack of necessary care. Criminal liability will not be attracted if the patient dies due to an error in judgment or accident.

A doctor can also be punished for causing hurt or grievous hurt under the IPC. However, Sections 87, 88, 89 and 92 of the IPC provide immunity from criminal prosecutions to doctors who act in good faith and for the patient's benefit. 


These guides are not legal advice, nor a substitute for a lawyer
These articles are provided freely as general guides. While we do our best to make sure these guides are helpful, we do not give any guarantee that they are accurate or appropriate to your situation, or take any responsibility for any loss their use might cause you. Do not rely on information provided here without seeking experienced legal advice first. If in doubt, please always consult a lawyer.

Googling your legal issue online?

The internet is not a lawyer and neither are you.
Talk to a real lawyer about your legal issue.

Popular Medical Negligence Lawyers in India

Advocate Sunil Kumar Bakshi
Sector-16, Faridabad
32 years Experience
Advocate J. P. Rinwa
Swej Farm, Sodala, Jaipur
18 years Experience
Advocate Shikhar Khare
Jangpura Extension, Delhi
6 years Experience
Advocate Bala Janaki
330 Thambuchetty Street, Chennai
34 years Experience

Related Articles

Get free legal advice from top Medical Negligence lawyers for your specific issue

Medical Negligence Law Articles

Law on Medical Negligence in India: How and when to file a case

All you need to know about Surrogacy Law in India

How to claim compensation in medical negligence cases

The Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970

User Reviews

4.6 - 20 reviews

September 01, 2018 Doctor’s liability in medical negligence cases

learned all the basics about the legal issue. Good article. Keep it up.

Reena on Apr 09, 2019

nice article. Thanks for the information

Dilip on May 17, 2019

Very good article

Arjun on May 18, 2019

Good work with the article. Solved all my legal queries. Regards.

Meena on May 04, 2019

Very nice article.

Shivam on May 10, 2019

Nice one.

Sharad on Apr 13, 2019

needed legal help…whom shall I contact?

Sarita on May 02, 2019

thanks for the info. How can we contact a lawyer?

Lakshmi on Apr 27, 2019

Gave me a very clear idea of the subject.

Jyothi on Apr 22, 2019

Answered all my legal queries.

Shyam on Apr 05, 2019

needed more information on the law

Manjula on May 16, 2019

it’s a very nice legal article

Mohit on Apr 29, 2019

thank you for the article

Anonymous on Apr 16, 2019

good article. Please provide more info

Payal on Apr 05, 2019

Very helpful for my legal case.

Umesh on Apr 24, 2019

Tells all the legalities about the subject. Good work.

Gaurav on Apr 17, 2019

informative with the law.

Deep on Apr 16, 2019

very helpful

Sameer on May 09, 2019

nice legal article.

Vaibhav on May 16, 2019

I have a case. Who can I contact?

Ravinder on Apr 24, 2019