Research Project

Market Medicine and Malpractice

Research Area : Health Legislation and Patients' Rights

Between 1988 and 1994, the Medico Friend Circle (Bombay Group) actively helped the victims of medical malpractice. In this period, the MFC (BG) was literally flooded with cases of medical malpractice, as if there was an explosion of public anger against a system substantially alienated from people's needs. The MFC (BG) served not only as a catalyst but also as a channel for the articulation of people's grievances against the rising cost of medical care, the growing arrogance of providers and their refusal to be socially accountable and sensitive. The MFC's campaign created a sense of urgency and forced all concerned people in Mumbai to respond. While handling individual cases of medical malpractice, the MFC (BG) organised seminars, meetings, and filed public interest litigation on the issues arising from the cases. It was against this backdrop of the campaign on medical malpractice, that a group of socially conscious doctors crystallised in Mumbai leading to the formation of an organisation for medical ethics.

CEHAT, in collaboration with Society for Public Health Awareness and Action (SPHA), decided to document the work of the MFC (BG) and the issues related to medical malpractice. Some of the relatives of victims had, in a very organised manner, not only fought their cases, but also tried to bring out public interest issues. During their struggles they acquired a good understanding of the way the medical market was organised in the country. Four of them were encouraged to document their experiences. From this emerged four exhaustive self-narrated case studies of suffering, struggles and frustration of the relatives of victims of medical malpractice. These case studies encourage people to ask questions, assert their rights vis-à-vis the professionals and take forward their individual struggles to bring about a positive change in the health care system. Along with the case studies we compiled 17 articles of this period and published a book. It covered articles on related subjects such as domination of private sector in health care delivery and virtual absence of regulation over it, the lack of strong ethical framework for monitoring doctors' conduct, the understanding of tort laws, consumer protection etc. These articles help readers to link the suffering of individuals, the market domination in health care and the need to rise above the suffering and reform the health sector in India.

The book makes a strong appeal for patients' rights and the observance of medical ethics. It asserts that our country would need a strong movement of patients and the socially conscious doctors to ensure patients' rights and observance of ethics. At the same time the book argues that such a movement would also need to take up the larger issue of universal access and the right to basic health care. This is to ensure that patients' rights and ethics are not reduced to simple market regulatory phenomenon, and emerge as the basis for empowering people in the field of health.

This work for the documentation was done in part voluntarily and partly with the support of the Anusandhan Trust and SPHA. This documentation was published in a book appropriately titled, "Market, Medicine and Malpractice".

Supported by: Anusandhan Trust

Project Publications