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Consumer Protection Laws In India With Special Reference To Human Health- A Socio-Legal Study

The Consumer Protection Act or the CPA is a statute that was enforced in the year of  1986. The CPA was implemented in India so as to ensure the protection of the interests of the consumers and to prevent them from exploitation at the hands of the sellers. Under the Consumer Protection Act, six consumer rights were included,  namely, right to be heard, right to choose, right of education of customer, right to safety, right to redress and the right to be informed. To ensure all these rights are extended to the customers, consumer councils and customer courts were established not just at the central level but also at the state and district levels. The consumer protection act is extremely consumer-friendly. It allows the consumers to present their own case and the case can be resolved within 3 to 6 months. 

Mutual trust is vital for any doctor-patient relationship. But over the years there has been an increase in profit-oriented health care which has led to less trust between doctors and patients. The law previously was not very dynamic and did not punish health care professionals for injuring their patients or being negligent while providing medical assistance to them. The consumer protection act has changed that and now provides protection to the customers and provides a mechanism for quick redressal to the complaints of the consumers against any malpractices.  

All medical services except the ones that are offered free of cost or in charitable or government hospitals are covered in the consumer protection act. If any patient or any relative of a patient thinks or has reason to believe that the patient suffered resulting in his or her death due to careless or negligent conduct of a doctor or any health care professional, they can approach the Medical Council of India or the  Consumer Court.  

The doctrine of Patient’s rights in India 

1. Patient as a consumer 

Patients usually have unprecedented trust in their doctors. However, in some cases,  there has been carelessness on the part of medical health care professionals that have harmed a patient in any form be it, physical, psychological or financial. Doctors have been convicted in civil courts, but few have been filed due to the expensive cost of litigation. The supreme court in 1995 declared the medical profession as a “service”  that would be included in Consumer Protection Act, 1986.  

2. Rights of Patient’s 

A patient needs to be aware of his or her rights. This awareness will not only help the patient on a personal level but will also make a better doctor-patient relationship.  Their rights are- 

  • The patient is also governed with the right to get a second opinion in case he/she is doubtful about the prescribed treatment or medication. 
  • Lastly, the patient also has the right to get his/her case papers on request.  

The consumer protection act is of significant importance to all consumers. It is imperative for the consumer protection act to be efficient and effective and to be implemented in a smooth and swift manner. All consumers and producers need to be aware of their rights and it is of utmost importance for all the parties informed to be educated regarding the same. There should not be any ambiguity regarding the consumer protection act and a patient who has been wronged by the medical practitioners should not feel hesitant to get justice. It is vital that the medical practitioners that have been negligent towards the patient be held liable for the same and punished.

By Yashita Kapoor