One of the most valued and essential fundamental human rights is the right to life and to personal liberty. Article 21 is regarded as a significant fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. This right, which is enforceable against the State, guarantees each and every person’s right to life and personal liberty. Over years, through various landmark cases, the Indian judiciary interpreted Article 21 and expanded its scope.
Today this article covers various rights that are necessary for living a decent human life that the founding fathers of the constitution might not imagine. Now, the Right to health is an internal part of the right to life and personal liberty under article 21 of the Indian constitution. In addition to that, the Constitution makes several references to public health and the state’s responsibility to establish policies pertaining to individuals’ access to healthcare.
The Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV of the Indian Constitution serve as a foundation for the right to health. As we talk about the right to health, we constantly observe that in India, patient emergency medical aid is consistently overlooked. The deposit of funds is always given priority over the admission of patients by hospitals. A patient cannot even request medical assistance without making payment.
We have also seen how the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) epidemic has jolted people and governments around the world out of the misconception that they have an effective public health care system and into the worst of nightmares. We are also well aware of the fact that how the patients were denied hospital admission despite a doctor’s recommendation to do so because of their critical condition.
Lack of ICU beds, inadequate oxygen supply, delays in appropriate medical treatment, etc. all have contributed to countless deaths. These circumstances make it necessary for everyone to consider a relevant query regarding emergency medical services in India. Whether we have a right to emergency medical care as a citizen of India and whether the government is doing enough to prevent its violation due to inferior healthcare infrastructure.
Emergency care in India
There is no particular statute governing emergency medical care in India. The Supreme Court of India and the relevant High Courts frequently construe it as a right granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, if we do a detailed analysis of this, we find out some of the provisions dealing with emergency medical aid. For example, emergency medical facilities are provided to victims of sexual assault. The law guarantees that children who have been the victims of sexual assault receive emergency medical attention. Within 24 hours of receiving the complaint, the same should be made available to them. A court order cannot be required before receiving care from a hospital, doctor, or another medical facility in this situation. It is the responsibility of the doctor to protect the child’s privacy and personal information.
Additionally, a trusted parent or guardian must be present for all treatments. All hospitals, whether public or private, are also required to offer free first aid or medical care to adult victims of sexual assault. Additionally, hospitals must immediately report any such event to the police. Failure to abide by these regulations will result in a fine and/or a jail sentence of up to one year. Having a woman present during treatment and having the patient’s or her guardian’s consent are crucial when treating a sexual assault survivor.
The second instance of emergency healthcare, we see, is during abortions. No matter how far along the pregnancy is (even if it is over the legally allowed time of 20 weeks), the doctor can perform the abortion if it is necessary in order to save the pregnant woman’s life. Abortions can be carried out by a licensed medical professional who does not meet the necessary OB-GYN requirements. In addition to this, emergency treatment of accident survivors is seen commonly.
Any hospital—public or private—will accept an accident victim. Without waiting for any formalities, the on-duty doctor must go to the injured person right away and provide proper medical care. Every public or private hospital has a duty to take patients in severe conditions and accident victims. Even if the victim is unable to pay the fee or cover the costs, or if no close relative of the victim is accessible to give consent for medical treatment, the hospital cannot deny treatment.
India is still having trouble implementing emergency medical services. However, there has been a renewed vigor in the field since Emergency Medicine was recently recognized as a distinct specialization in medical training. Even back in 1989, in Parmanand Katara v. Union of India (AIR 1989 SC 2039), the Supreme Court of India made the observation that when accidents happen and the victims are taken to hospitals or to a doctor, they are not cared for giving emergency medical treatment on the grounds that the case is a medico-legal case and the injured person should go to a Government Hospital.
The Supreme Court stressed the requirement that hospitals and healthcare providers provide immediate medical attention. In Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samithi v. State of West Bengal, 1996, the Supreme Court reiterated its stance. In this case, a laborer had fallen from a train and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
He was taken to the Primary Health Center, but because there were insufficient facilities for his care there, the medical officer recommended that he seek better care at the nearby Government hospital.
In the case of Medical Association vs. V. P. Shanta, the Supreme Court ruled that, in accordance with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, patients seeking medical assistance fall under the concept of “Consumer.” The SC has further stated that it is against Article 21 of the Indian Constitution to refuse emergency medical care. Therefore, receiving unfettered emergency medical assistance is a citizen’s fundamental right. According to Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, “Right to health is a challenge of fundamental importance in Indian society. Not only do health professionals have a duty to protect, uphold, and fulfil the right to health, but also government officials like judges and administrators.”
In India, the problem of emergency medical care is dispersed. This is not specifically governed by any specific law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a very serious concern. Receiving prompt, high-quality medical care In an emergency situation, can mean the difference between life and death. All people have the right to life, which is protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Your right to receive emergency medical care is also covered under this. It is the responsibility of all state governments to protect the lives of anyone seeking medical attention. If a patient cannot pay, they cannot be denied emergency medical care. The provision of emergency care should be made mandatory, and all applicable standards of care and quality must be upheld.