April 27th, 2017
The Delhi High Court passed an order on 26 April saying that hospitals cannot hold patients hostage over non-payment of bills.
The verdict was dispensed by a Bench consisting of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Deepa Sharma. The Justices told the private hospital in question, “Merely because the dues of the Hospital treating the patient are outstanding, that certainly cannot be a reason to withhold the release of the patient … We deprecate this practice.”
The case involved a former Madhya Pradesh policeman who had to undergo surgery for treatment of an intestinal disorder. He was admitted in a Delhi hospital in February. However, as stated by the patient’s son, the hospital was holding the patient hostage due to outstanding dues of Rs 13.45 lakh.
According to The Economic Times, the son alleged that the hospital was not giving proper treatment to his father and when he sought to take him away, it did not allow him to do so. He also said that the surgery was carried out after he had lodged a police complaint on 20 April.
The son duly approached the Delhi High Court with a habeas corpus plea.
The hospital opposed the son’s arguments and retorted that he had raised the grievance as the patient was shifted to the general ward from private ward due to non- payment of dues. The hospital also stated that the total bill was Rs 16.75 lakh and the patient had only paid Rs 3.3 lakh.
Despite the outstanding dues, a surgery was carried out on the patient on April 21 after being shifted to the general ward, the hospital said.
Presently, the Court has directed the hospital to prepare the discharge summary and allowed the petitioner to remove his father from the hospital on his own responsibility.
“If bills not paid, then release the patient. You cannot keep patients hostage. That cannot be the modus operandi … Even if dues are outstanding, custody of patients cannot be withheld to extract money towards unpaid bills. We deprecate this practice,” the Court told the hospital.