“Recently, the Surat District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum held a doctor guilty of medical negligence and asked him to pay Rs 4.8 lakhs with 9% compound interest and Rs 1.5 lakh to the patient’s relatives.”
After reading this news, many of you must be thinking, what’s new about this? After all, the death of a patient due to a doctor’s negligence is a common thing in today’s time. However, what differentiates this news from the rest of the cases is that the guilty doctor had bought a doctor’s professional indemnity insurance cover from one of the leading insurance companies.
An alarming situation
A constant fear of getting caught up in medical negligence cases and charges from patients and their relatives is driving doctors to get themselves insured for negligence. Many times, relatives become aggressive and even end up assaulting doctors. Some have come with mobs and vandalised hospitals or clinics.
According to a 2013 survey, by Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard School of Public Health, India recorded 5.2 million medico-legal cases a year, ranging from incorrect prescription, wrong timing of treatment, wrong surgery, wrong choice of drug to wrong dosage of medication.
Doctors are in the dock now. Lawsuits filed by patients and their relatives are jamming up courtrooms throughout the nation. As per NABH study, 98,000 deaths/year from medical injuries occurred in India a few years ago. According to Mr. Mahendrakumar Bajpai, Advocate, Supreme Court, New Delhi, more and more patients are now suing doctors for alleged negligence and challenging their expertise. He further added that such medical cases have doubled since 2014.
The names of affected doctors have been splashed across newspapers, television screens and the internet across the country. It is the kind of ‘publicity’ that every doctor dreads. Thanks to the internet, many patients, and their relatives are challenging the treatment of their doctor on the basis of their internet research.
With public awareness; claims and litigation are increasing at an unprecedented rate. According to Dr Girish Tyagi, Registrar of Delhi Medical Council, an authority that deals with such cases, the number of medico-legal cases from overcharging, needless procedures has increased from about 15 complaints in a month to 40.
The dismally small number of doctors in India is also one of the reasons behind the rise in medico-legal cases. As per the Medical Council of India, the doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1681.
It is not that the doctor is always at fault. There are good doctors and there are bad doctors, just as there are good patients and bad patients. In some cases, patients are filing cases of medical negligence only because they want their fees to be waived off.
Some scenarios of doctors facing litigation are due to a patient’s allegation of negligent diagnosis or giving a sub-standard course of medical treatment. In many cases, doctors face legal action, irrespective of whether they were at fault or not.
The fear of litigation is so high that now many corporate hospitals have also made it compulsory to buy professional indemnity insurance for doctors if they want to work as a consultant. At present, practically all the top surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians are insured for medical negligence.
A way out: Professional indemnity insurance policy for Doctors
It is always desirable thus, to have doctor’s professional indemnity insurance because of the rise in the number of litigations. Many times, frivolous charges are foisted and physicians are left to fend for themselves in the court. During this time, professional indemnity insurance acts as a boon. The policy covers court costs like lawyer fees, compensation paid by doctors and other expenses incurred in the investigation. Insurance companies offer cover for bodily injury or death of the patient due to omission, error or negligence in the professional service of the doctor, malpractice, negligence, incorrect diagnosis and poor judgement. The policy gets triggered as soon as the notice is served to the insured doctor.
Additional Read: When does a claim occur under DPI and how to raise a claim?
A quick look at benefits of a professional indemnity insurance for doctors:
- Wide coverage against various kinds of risks and losses
- Provides for legal expenses and cost incurred
- Hassle-free documentation
- Option of mid-term increase or decrease in the sum insured
How to choose the correct sum insured?
In doctor’s professional indemnity insurance policy, the sum insured is relatively known as the limit of indemnity. This limit is fixed per accident and per policy tenure, which is known as ‘Any One Accident’ (AOA) and ‘Any One Year’ (AOY) limit, commonly known as AOA:AOY. You can choose the ratio of AOA limit to AOY limit from the following:
The AOA limit, which is the maximum amount to be paid for each accident, should be decided taking into account the nature of the accident and the doctor’s specialty, etc.
How premiums are determined?
The doctor’s professional indemnity insurance policy’s premium depends on various factors like the doctor’s specialty, seniority, practice, equipment used, etc. For a surgeon, the policy can cost anywhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 crore. For physicians and other categories of doctors, it is relatively cheaper. A majority of the insurance policies offer coverage for once a year. Every year, the doctor has to enter into a fresh agreement.
While doctor’s professional indemnity insurance offers wide coverage, here are some events which are not covered:
- Any criminal act, fines and penalties
- Use of drugs for hair transplants, weight reduction, cosmetic plastic surgery and the similar procedures
- Any dishonest, fraudulent criminal or malicious act
- Any condition associated with AIDS
“Doctors have an ethical duty to follow the practices and standards of care”: Bob Mcdonnell, An American Politician
Indian patients often treat their doctors as incarnations of God, even today, but slowly, the situation is changing. At the end of the day, doctors too are human. Therefore, it makes complete sense to go for a professional indemnity insurance to secure your profession against all trivial complaints.