HOSPITAL - A place to heal or scar
Authored By- Surabhi Chabbra
Women in India have been witnessing sexual assault in every corner. To say that women are not even safe inside a hospital is a matter of extreme concern. A patient is admitted in the hospital with the hope of saving herself, but raping a woman kills her very soul. The right to life also includes the right to health and the Government has a constitutional obligation to provide the health facilities. But this right is violated every time a woman is raped inside the hospital premises. This not only affects human dignity but also destroys the element of trust between a doctor and his patient.
We often tend to worry about things that affect us and turn a blind eye towards the rest of the issues. Just like the present scenario, with the whole world disturbed from the coronavirus pandemic, there is another disease which needs to be addressed immediately, the disease of the mindset of people treating women as mere objects. Women in India have been witnessing sexual assault in every corner. However, to say that women are not even safe inside a hospital is a matter of extreme concern. With the ongoing pandemic, there have been news of girls and women being raped by other patient, the hospital staff, their relatives and even by doctors inside the hospital itself during their treatment.Such incidents not only shatter the dignity of a woman, but also destroys the trust of the patient, who enters the hospital thinking they are in safe hands. A patient is admitted in the hospital with the hope of saving herself, but raping a woman kills her very soul.
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees right to life and personal liberty, which thereby includes the right to live with human dignity. However, this right is denied to women whenever she is being sexually assaulted. Article 21 is widely interpreted. The right to life also includes the right to health and the Government has a constitutional obligation to provide the health facilities. Health facilities include humane conditions and a safe environment for each patient to recover. But this right is violated every time a woman is raped inside the hospital premises. This not only affects the human dignity but also destroys the element of trust between a doctor and his patient.
Do we have any specific laws to curb this heinous crime?
The Code of Medical Ethics Regulations, 2002 regulates the Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics for registered medical practitioners. Regulation 7.4 renders a physician liable for disciplinary action for abuse of professional position by committing adultery or improper conduct with a patient or by maintaining an improper association with a patient. The Regulations also prevent human rights violation. The physician shall not aid or abet torture nor shall he be a party to either infliction of mental or physical trauma or concealment of torture inflicted by some other person or agency in clear violation of human rights.
· Section 376 of The Indian Penal Code, punishes any person who being on the management or on the staff of a hospital, takes advantage of his official position, and commits rape on a woman in that hospital.
· The National Human Rights Commission drafted the Charter of Patients’ Rights, which was planned to be adopted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. One of the rights provided under the Charter is the female patient’s right to the presence of another female person during a physical examination by a male practitioner. It is the duty of the hospital management to ensure the presence of such female attendants in the case of female patients. Further, it is the duty of hospital management to ensure its staff upholds the human dignity of all its patients. However, the Charter has failed to be adopted and implemented in the Country.
The Constitution of India provides provisions for the State to make special provisions for women.
Despite such efforts, hospitals are still not safe for women. The Country needs more and strict laws to prevent harassment of women inside the hospitals. Where the Constitution provides special treatment for women and children, it is the duty of the state to ensure female patients are treated in a more protective way, in view of the current position of the society.
To prevent women being sexually assaulted in hospitals, there should be strict rules and regulations.
· Female patients should be treated in the presence of a female doctor or any relatives she trusts.
· There should be separate wards for male and female patients.
· There should be CCTV camera in each room. This is even more essential in the present time where hundreds of patients are staying in quarantine centres. There should be cameras in each corner.
· Each patient should be well attended. This is necessary to build trustworthy communication with women, so that they feel comfortable in reporting any incident to the doctor or the authorities.
· The Hospital Management should keep regularly organize inspections of the premises.
· In case any unfortunate incident is reported, there should be strict action against the wrongdoer.
· There should be strict rules of safety where no outsider can visit the room of a female patient.
Since ancient times, it has been said that women do not require education. It is a man who should be well educated. This is true, since men need to be well-educated about the dignity of a female body. It is shameful however, it is a reality to say that women are not even safe in a hospital, in the hands of those who are treated as God. A few percent of the society destroying the relation between a doctor and a patient. Such issues need to be addressed and acted upon. There should be strict laws with strict implementation, quick redressal services and more vigilance. The dignity of a profession in which doctors are equated to God must be protected at all costs and a woman who has equal rights to live must be able to live her life with dignity.
Maneka Gandhi v.Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597. State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh Chawla, (1997) 2 SCC 83. Indian Medical Council(Professional Conduct, Etiquette, and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, Regulation 6.6. The Constitution of India, art. 15(3).