Mr. X v. Hospital Z

DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 10/12/2002

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: S. RAJENDRA BABU, P. VENKATARAMA REDDI & ARUN KUMAR.

REFERENCE: Appeal (civil) 4641 of 1998

PARTIES:

Petitioner: Mr. X

Respondents: Hospital Z

SUBJECT:

The judgment in the case has portrayed the differentiation between a moral obligation and a lawful code in a very effective manner. The court began with the source of the moral obligation of not uncovering the patient’s classified data with how it has now been consolidated as a legal standard. Relying on Code of Medical Ethics as an exception to the rule of confidentiality, the court held that in certain cases where specific people can be endangered if the knowledge isn’t disclosed, the doctor can disclose the knowledge.

FACTS:

The Appellants blood was to be transfused to another and in this regard a sample thereof was taken at the Respondents Hospital. The Appellant came out to be H.I.V. positive. By virtue of revelation of the fact that the Appellant was H.I.V. positive by the Hospital authorities without the express assent of the Appellant, the Appellants proposed wedding with Ms A which had before been acknowledged, was cancelled. In addition, the Appellant was seriously reprimanded and was additionally segregated by the community to such a degree, that he needed to leave his work environment and house and move to another city. The man argued that the respondent hospital and doctor had breached their obligations under medical ethics by revealing the data.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:
  • Section 20A of Indian Medical Council Act, 1956
  • Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Act, 1964
  • Article 21 of Constitution of India which talks about Right to privacy as an extension to right to life.
  • Sections 26, 269 and 270 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 which talks about unlawfully, negligently or maliciously spreading of a disease.
  • Section 2 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which talks of ‘deficiency in service’.
  • Section 9 of The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention And Control) Act, 2017 which lays down an exception to the concept of “informed consent” as mentioned under Section- 8(2)(d).
  • Section- 8(2)(d): “Informed consent” as differentiated from consent means consent to a specific intervention which has been laid down in the guidelines without coercion, fraud, mistake or misrepresentation by the person himself and his representative.
ISSUES:
  • Whether the Respondents were liable for violating the Appellant’s entitlement to privacy ensured under Article 21 of the constitution of India?
  • Whether the respondents were liable of violating the obligation to maintain secrecy under Medical Ethics?
  • Whether the appellant’s case was qualified for compensation from the respondents?
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT:

The judgement of the Apex Court was as per following:

In deciding the primary issue, the Court held that in case of a conflict between the Appellants fundamental right to protection of his privacy and Ms As fundamental right to be educated about any danger to her life/wellbeing, in such an occasion the Latter’s entitlement to be educated will abrogate the Appellants right to privacy. Consequently the Court held the Respondents not guilty on the principal issue. In deciding the subsequent issue, the Court held that the obligation to keep up secrecy in each Doctor-Patient relationship is not supreme and such obligation could be broken and consequently secrecy disclosed where compelling public interest so requires. Thus the Court held the Respondents not guilty on the subsequent count as well.

Having regard to the fact that the appealing party was seen as HIV positive, its divulgence would not be violative of either the rule of confidentiality or the litigant’s Right of Privacy as Ms. A with whom the appealing party was probably going to be hitched was spared in time by such revelation, or disaster would have been imminent, she also would have been tainted with the frightful infection if marriage had occurred and culminated.

Mental and physical wellbeing is of prime significance in a marriage, as one of the objects of the marriage is giving birth to similarly healthy children. That is the reason, in each arrangement of matrimonial law, it has been given that if an individual was seen as experiencing any, including venereal disease, in a transmittable structure, it will be available to the next accomplice in the union to look for divorce.

CONCLUSION:

This present case’s pertinence is clear from the way that its decision has been incorporated as a provision in the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 20176. Further decisions of the current provisions would assist in tossing light on the various interpretations of the case and help unfurl the queries left unanswered.

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