Knowledge about medico legal issues for a treating doctor: Mandatory social responsibility

The right to healthcare requires ensuring that appropriate physical health services are available without discrimination and are accessible, acceptable and of good quality. Medico legal case (MLC) is a case where besides the medical treatment; police investigations are essential to fix the responsibility regarding the present condition of the patient. MLCs are cases of trauma, ailment or infection where the attending doctors require legal knowledge and shall understand the right to healthcare of patient. Cases of accidental deaths, dead on arrival, unnatural events, fire arm injuries; mental illness, physical injuries and poisoning under suspicious circumstances are some examples of MLCs.

MLCs are an integral part of medical practice that is frequently encountered by medical officers, causality medical officer, in-charge ward. The decision to label a case as MLC should be based on sound professional judgment after taking a detailed history and thorough clinical examination. Case of discharge / transfer/ death under suspicious circumstances must be reported to the police & nearest of kin whenever such MLCs are brought to the notice of attending doctor for treatment. Also, police should be informed immediately by the Medical officer on sudden death of the patient after admission to the hospital especially when the cause of the death is not known.

Legal formalities restraints of the institutions or hospital shall not stop them from providing basic medical treatment. The treating doctors shall have point to point knowledge of medicines related MLCs and even law of the state and country. There are various types of medico legal cases registered against medical professionals which include failure to preserve the necessary samples for subsequent examination, releasing the dead body of a patient in a criminal case without inquest and Post- Mortem or carelessness/negligence towards the patient. Generally legal problems start with controversy revolving around the duties and rights of doctors. The healthcare professionals, allied themes and the lawyers are engaged collectively in legal advocacy to ensure the protocols and procedures utilized at health.

There are differences in the legal procedures being followed by different states. In non­-entitled cases, after the initial stabilization, the patient may be transferred to the nearest hospital and by ambulance. To realize the right to healthcare of survivors, health professionals must be trained to respond appropriately to their needs, dignity and autonomy of each survivor.

Law is common to all; knowledge about medico legal issues is not optional for a treating doctor but a mandatory social responsibility. It is important to handle such cases to facilitate social and legal justice. A doctor has a right to refer the patient to other facility to maintain regularity of the treatment if required. In addition, he/she also has the right to turn away before commencing medical treatment. But it is necessary to provide basic minimum care to the patient when some emergency occurs and he/she can also ask for written refusal letter if the patient does not want follow what has been advised.

Doctors should register MLCs whenever they are in doubt to determine the medico legal implications. He/she should maintain the complete records of the patients including the personal details, history, examination and treatment of the MLC patient. It is advisable to follow the legal aspects to avoid embarrassment in the court of law due to the lack of knowledge and awareness regarding MLCs and their practices.

WorkSure® offers MLC products to help medical fraternity through increasing awareness. The products continuously helps the doctors, lawyers & private nursing home by providing reader friendly information about the commonly encountered situations within medical legal domain. We also provide valuable guidance to protect you from all the medico legal complications in day to day clinical practice.