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Like US, India needs legislation to protect medical professionals

Like US, India needs legislation to protect medical professionals

The Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania (CMAAO) has sought legal immunity for medical professionals in the testing times of Covid-19 by deciding to file a representation to the Prime Minister and the Health Minister, citing instances of complaints or malicious actions against health care professionals (HCPs) along with a list of apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in government directives.

More than 50 top doctors of the country took this decision during the 'Round Table Expert Meet of Medical Liability in COVID Era' which was also attended by country's leading legal experts like Mukul Rohatgi, former attorney general for India, and former Supreme Court Justice A.K. Sikri, sources told IN.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-1671" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/doctor-checking-corona.jpg" alt="" width="626" height="417" />

While the United States has come out with legislation granting immunity to HCPs during Covid-19—Section 3215 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act establishes a specific limitation on liability for "volunteer" health care providers during the Covid-19 emergency declaration—the laws during the Covid pandemic in India are the Disaster Management Act, 2005, at the national level and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, at the state levels.

The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, has not been revised till date.

Another law in the US, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, provides that a "covered person," including a qualified person who prescribes, administers, or dispenses "pandemic countermeasures," "shall be immune from suit and liability under Federal and State law with respect to all claims for loss…" during a declared disease-related public health emergency.

Besides these two Federal laws, various states in the US may have provisions that limit or immunize providers from liability.

Though it is mentioned under the Section 4 of India's Epidemic Act that, “no suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under this act," it’s not clear if medical professionals are covered under this as the meaning of the words “good faith” needs to be clarified.

"This is a difficult time. There are going to be mistakes, which are beyond the control of doctors, since it is a totally new disease. Doctors and other healthcare workers are at the forefront of this battle to fight Covid-19. Private healthcare takes care of about 75 per cent of health needs of the country. Doctors and support staff are facing difficulties on account of contradictory orders of the government as guidelines are not clear," said Doctor K.K. Aggarwal, president, CMAAO.

<img class="wp-image-1668 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Doctor-K.K.-Aggarwal-Presi.jpg" alt="" width="399" height="286" /> Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, President, CMAAO

The American laws, not only the Central Act but also the state acts (Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, and Tennessee), provide immunity to doctors from civil and criminal negligence unless they have wantonly or negligently treated their patients.

However, the experts opined that the Disaster Management act in India provides immunity only to the officials of the authority mentioned in the section and not to all medical professionals. Likewise, the Epidemic Disease Act also does not protect the private doctors.

Justice Sikri, in fact, expressed his “pain and anguish” that doctors themselves are struggling to find ways out to not be harassed or persecuted by their patients and that, under the existing environment today, doctors need all kinds of protection.

It was decided by the CMAAO that if the government does not respond, then the petition, draft of which to be first vetted by Mukul Rohatgi, would be filed in the Supreme Court of India..