Violence Against Doctors


No doctor shall enter a hospital with the mind-set of harming any patient, and nothing can be learnt without making mistakes, and no result can be reached if there are limited facilities and cooperation and safety for the doctors themselves. It is time that society understands this.

Violence against doctors in India is not something new or something that one is unaware of, a 2015 survey by the Indian Medical Association suggests that 75% of doctors in India have faced some form of violence at work.[1] A cycle of violent strikes and negative media coverage has spoilt the look of the medical community in India. People now see doctors with the thoughts of someone they have no choice but to be dependent upon.

Earlier, doctors were given a position that of God, but of late the cases of violence seem to be on the rise, quite often in the emergency case on the staff on duty. Doctors are always expected to maintain their cool even if the patients misbehave or give away any sort of violence. There is practically no justification for the public to take the law into their hands.

Every state in India has the right to make its own laws relating to the health care sector. An incident in February 2017, in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, where a private hospital was vandalised by a mob due to the death of a patient because of medical negligence led to the state government hurriedly introducing a new law. The law ensures of severe penalties than the current ones, including the possibility of criminal prosecution of doctors for medical negligence in private hospitals.

The many stories of medical achievement may not be reported as often as the few reports of medical negligence. Patients from poorer backgrounds tend to accept any facility a public sector hospital can provide. The extremely rich seek care only in expensive private sector hospitals. It is for the middle class (which has increased drastically with the economic liberalization of the country which is left to struggle between the rich and the poor sections of our society. They cannot afford private sector hospitals for long-duration treatment as the cause of the cost and yet they are highly dissatisfied with the public sector hospitals, where the number of patients is huge and facilities are limited and poor. This group of patients is educated and demands proper answering, which is often not available to them due to a lack of time and skills among practitioners.

The SC went on to rule that in emergency situations, any mistake committed by a doctor may not amount to negligence. The protection provided to our doctors needs to increase, and necessary video recordings must take place while obtaining consent from the concerned persons.

Causes of this Violence

The causes of this violence are generally the following:

1. Poor image of Doctors and the role of the Media

In India, doctors have traditionally been regarded as Gods by society. The current situation of business-mindedness of some in the profession has led to a poor image of doctors.

One of the factors that contribute to this poor image of doctors is the hyping of every news item, often ignoring information that is actually of relevance.

2. Poor quality of Healthcare

Among other causes of violence against doctors in India are the pathetic conditions in which patients are treated in government hospitals. There is overcrowding, long waiting hours to meet doctors, an absence of a clean and healthy environment, and poor hygiene and sanitization.

3. Mob Mentality

In India, emotional turmoil due to the death of a beloved one is sometimes used by local politicians as an opportunity to showcase their political relevance through violence at the hospitals, often this also takes the face of religious riots in cases where the doctor treating the patient is of a different caste.

4. Low health literacy and high costs of Healthcare

The rising cost of healthcare is the key reason for the breakdown of the bond between doctors and their patients, also often false accusations are made even if the death is due to some other reason.

What must be done?

There is an urgent need to make healthcare facilities a safe environment. Only then can healthcare professionals be expected to work with devotion and dedication. Further complaints lodged by patients or their representatives, must be canceled if the hospitals are able to show proof of violence in any manner. Further punishments under IPC as well as under the Prevention of Violence against Medicare Persons and Medicare Institutions Acts must be made applicable.

The courts must thus strike a balance to protect the doctors of good faith and punish those who are guilty, the SC once observed that the doctor’s job is to protect life and the courts should assist in this cause as far as possible. It is also the duty of the courts to see that doctors are not harassed in the course of the performance of such duty.[2]

[1]Over 75% of doctors have faced violence at work, a study finds. The Times of India (Mumbai).

Date: May 4, 2015

  1. [2]Paramananda Katara v. Union of India(1989) 4 SCC 286

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