If Not Medical Terrorism, What Is It?

About 52 lakhs medical injuries are recorded in India, of which about 98,000 people lose their lives every year. It is a matter of serious concern for the entire nation that ten people fall victims to medical negligence every minute and more than 11 people die per hour in the country due to medical error.. It is the eighth leading cause of death in the world. Approximately 30 lakhs years of healthy lives are lost in the country each year solely because of medical negligence. This is not acceptable at any cost. A nationwide movement called “STOP MEDICAL TERRORISM” has been initiated by a group of victims and supporters under the platform of Dr. Anamika Ray Memorial Trust, Guwahati demanding a separate law in the country to control unpardonable callousness of the medical professionals and malparctices at the hospitals.

After initiating this movement for better health care services in India, we have been aware of hundreds of similar incidents relating to medical negligence. In many cases it is found that a few doctors not only neglect their duty to care for their patients, but also they create terror. A victim recently complained that his wife collapsed in a city hospital where she was admitted due to negligence and the doctors tried to create a situation of terror. The first day doctors advised to get some tests done after her admission into the hospital. The second day they told that they were waiting for the reports, although all the tests of the heart condition of the patient were done in the hospital itself. The third day doctors told that her condition was poor and needed an operation immediately. When the husband requested them to do the needful, the doctors told that they were unable to do the surgery as they did not have their team and also refused to shift her to another hospital. The fourth day the patient went to the ventilation and collapsed after two hours.

In another incident, after the untimely demise of a newly married young girl her brother approached the doctor to know the cause of his sister’s death the doctor replied that he was aware of the patient’s abnormal pregnancy and wanted to experiment in continuing her pregnancy to learn more. The doctor admitted that it was his fault and also threatened the elder brother of the patient not to go for any legal action. How do we term such activities? Are they not medical negligence?

A few days back a senior doctor telephoned us and told that he stands for the cause we are fighting for. But what he suggested is that the term “medical terrorism” needs to be changed. Here our justification comes. Why we coined the term “medical terrorism”? To explain it let us clarify two important terms- “medical error” and “medical negligence.”

Not all medical injuries are the result of negligence. In fact, a vastmajority are due to inherent risks that cannot be prevented. Preventable errors that cause injury, on the other hand, are considered negligent. However, how “preventable” is defined is not always clear. But in case of a minimal access surgery like gallbladder or appendicitis removal this confusion does not arise. It can not be an error. It must be due to a negligent act.

Medical error may occur due to a wrong judgment. For a patient, the doctor is like God. And, the God is infallible. That is a patient’s conviction. In reality, doctors are only human beings. And, to err is human. Doctors may commit a mistake. It is medical error and there is no way accepting it. Andwhen doctors tend to benegligent, the support staffs also become careless and two acts of negligence may give rise to a much bigger problem. It becomes gross negligence at large.

It is difficult to define negligence, however, the concept has been accepted in jurisprudence. The authoritative text on the subject in India is the ‘Law of Torts’ by Ratanlal and Dhirajlal. Negligence has been discussed as it is the breach of a duty caused by the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. Actionable negligence consists in the neglect of the use of ordinary care or skill towards a person to whom the defendant owes the duty of observing ordinary care and skill, by which neglect the plaintiff has suffered injury to his person or property.

The definition involves three constituents of negligence: (1) duty of care: a legal duty to exercise due care on the part of the party complained of towards the party complaining the former's conduct within the scope of the duty. It is clear that all doctors and other health professionals owe a duty to their patients to exercise reasonable care in carrying out their professional skills. In most medical negligence cases, establishing a duty of care is unlikely to be a problem; (2) breach of the said duty: The second element is for us to establish a breach of duty of care, i.e. showing that the doctor has been negligent. In the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (1957) the test for establishing medical negligence was set out. A doctor is required to exercise the ordinary skill of a competent doctor in his or her field. He or she must exercise this skill in accordance with a responsible body of medical opinion skilled in that area of medicine; and (3) consequential damage: If it can be proved that the doctor was negligent, the next step is to show that the negligence caused you some harm. Often, establishing causation can be problematic in medical negligence cases because you will have been receiving treatment in any event.

Cause of action for negligence arises only when damage occurs; for, damage is a necessary ingredient of this tort. Thus, the essential components of negligence are three: 'duty', 'breach' and 'resulting damage'. Again, when a doctor misleads a patient for his own benefit? When he acts violence? When he creates a situation of fear in the mind of the patient and their family? After doing a negligent act, when he refuses to admit? When he takes advantages of dependence or blackmails on the helplessness of a patient or his family? Are they only medical negligence? They are medical terrorism.

The term terrorism needs no explanation. It is a systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve some kind of goal or other. It is the state of being terrorized or creating a terror situation. Medical terrorism may be defined as creating a situation of terror using the medical knowledge as weapon. A blogger Stephen Murathe explains the term as “we have heard of Biological Terrorism before. Today, there is a new form of Terrorism. Medical Terrorism. This is the New Term of Murdering Patients. If they don't have the money (if they can't afford it), let them die. The pain, the anguish, the condemnation, the distress and humiliation that the Patients are going through in our time is incomprehensible. People who are already helpless and in need of care are subjected to further trouble by people who should be taking care of them. Instead of embracing them they are adding salt to injury through neglect, lack of concern and sheer abandon until money is deposited in the facility account so as to commence any form of treatment.” Medical negligence is under the umbrella term of medical terrorism. When a medical professional or a service provider does any inhuman behaviour creating an environment of terror using medical knowledge or license, then it is not only negligence, it is medical terrorism.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 sections 52, 80, 81, 83, 88, 90, 91, 92 304-A, 337 and 338 contain the law of medical malpractice in India. A physician can be charged with criminal negligence when a patient dies from the effects of anesthesia during an operation or other kind of treatment, if it can be proved that the death was the result of malicious intention, or gross negligence. Before the administration of anesthesia or performance of an operation, the medical professional is expected to follow the accepted precautions.

Author Ankuran Dutta is is head of Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University.


  1. Dear Campaigner,
    Very very thought-provoking issue.
    I want to add some more. I personally have seen in many cases that no cancer patient collapses so easily until and unless chemotherapy is administered to him or her and very soon after administration of the same, the patient collapses. What is the explanation behind those certified, medically advocated and so-called ethical practices? I must say that the WHO (World Health Organization) and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should not be spared for accepting bribes in huge amounts from the pharmaceutical giants, viz., Big Pharma for the sake of certifying the drugs manufactured by them and also tagging those as prescribed drug.
    Will those issues are also going to be covered by your mission through a nationwide campaign? If so, I shall be there with you all along the same.
    Shall try to extend my best cooperation for the mission. Actually, I was hopefully waiting for such a great mission being carried out by your Trust.

  2. Thank you so much for your valuable input. Please note that we are observing 25th June as Patients' Rights Day and 19th July as Anti-Medical Terrorism Day.

  3. Very nice move..its time to raise voice against doctors hooliganism