Consent from present relative sufficient for unconscious/ emergency patient
The patient met with a roadside accident, and thereafter, the traffic policeman gave blow on the patient's right ear. The patient started bleeding from the right ear. Looking at the critical condition of the patient, the local health center referred him to the District Hospital, but instead the patient was taken to the hospital, admitted and operated upon by the doctor.
It was alleged that the doctor had not taken any consent from the patient before conducting the surgery.The doctor pointed that consent was given by the patient's brother-in-law.
- The court held that as the patient was unconscious at the time of admission, consent given by his brother-in-law was sufficient.
- The court observed that negligence could not be imputed for not obtaining consent from wife or son of the patient as "the hospital was not required to know whether complainant's (patient's) wife and son were available or not. Merely because consent has not been obtained from wife or son of the complainant, no negligence on the part of the doctor can be imputed in operating after taking consent of brother-in-law of the complainant."
- In case of emergencies, the relative/attendant who is present at that point in time should be asked to give consent. (In this case, one of the allegations was that the consent of the brother-in-law of the patient, and not that of his wife or son, was taken for the surgery as the patient was unconscious. The court, while dismissing this allegation, has very aptly observed that the "concerned hospital was not required to know whether complainant's wife and son were available or not.")
- Hospitals/doctors need to be more cautious while taking proxy consent (consent of someone other than the patient). Efforts must be made to take consent of the nearest relative of the patient, if possible, though law has not prescribed any particular hierarchy for the same. (In this case, consent of the brother-in-law of an unconscious patient was taken. The court, while dismissing the allegations of negligence on this count, observed, "Merely because consent has not been obtained from wife or son of the complainant, no negligence on the part of the doctor can be imputed in operating after taking consent of brother-in-law of the complainant (patient).")
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