The issue of private hospitals over charging patients for treatment, subjecting patients to unnecessary medical investigations and prescribing unnecessary medicines to inflate medical bills is getting louder by the day in Mysore and across India. The focus of discussion during the monthly meeting of Mysore Grahakara Parishat was on increasing incidences of Medical Malpractice in Mysore. Among those present were members of the public who volunteered to share their agonising experiences both as patients and those who had to bear the high costs of treatment for their loved ones in private hospitals.

The most common observation among the speakers was that the doctors and hospitals keep them in the dark about the treatment or are given very little information or explanation about a course of treatment. More often than not, either the patients themselves or their family are hardly given any time to decide to take a second opinion as the hospitals make it appear that delay might cause serious impairment or even death. At the end of it all, the hospital bill often comes as a shock and the patients or the families are either not financially prepared or do not have the means to pay. Section 11 of The Indian Contract Act lays down that a patient’s consent or of the family is mandatory for any medical intervention. Often hospitals either do not share the treatment details with the patients or create documents depending on the circumstance. Some are believed to have manipulated or forged signatures on documents. According to a RTI activist, he had to seek legal recourse to obtain information in the case of his own father’s treatment.

In a heart wrenching incident, a young lady suffering from pain in the abdomen had her uterus removed without her knowledge and complained that her pain had only increased after the operation. As she shared her experience, she appeared to be still in agony. The worst culprit is the medical illiteracy among the patients both of the course of treatment or the legal procedures involved. Patients or the family members are asked to sign undertaking by the hospital (sometimes on blank forms) to ensure they are safeguarded in the event the treatment goes wrong or in the event of a suit for medical negligence.

Any doubt about the genuineness of the accounts shared by the individuals about their experiences while undergoing treatment in hospitals were removed, when medical doctors present endorsed the accounts shared. One highly qualified doctor with four decades of experience in the US narrated an incident when he literally forced a hospital to discharge a friend who was to undergo an operation for removal of his Prostrate where there was absolutely no need. Yet another professor of Pharmacology present, lamented that greed had overtaken this noble profession of healing and reduced it to looting people through unethical practices. He observed that pharmacies were increasingly prescribing medicines instead of dispensing and this was a dangerous trend. Doctors are also prescribing more medicines than required and denying the natural ability of the human body to cure itself, he added.

This is not to say that all hospitals are bad or that all doctors violate the Hippocratic oath they take to serve mankind at the time of their graduation. But the number of bad eggs in the profession seem to be increasing bringing shame and disrepute to the noble profession as a whole.