Synopsis: The High Court observed that the hospital’s failure to admit a COVID-19 patient, without a valid excuse, i.e. the unavailability of beds, would constitute a culpable infringement of the medical institution’s fundamental duty.
On Wednesday, the Calcutta High Court said that no hospital would refuse to accommodate a COVID-19 patient if beds are available for those patients and that this is one of the fundamental principles of medical ethics.
The Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee further stated that a hospital’s primary objective, be it government or private, should be to provide health services to those who need it.
In fact, in the Public Interest Litigation case before the Court, the petitioners raised two issues. First, the question was related to the handling, that is to be handled with due care, respect and integrity, of the dead body of a COVID-19 victim.
Another problem related to the admission (whether detected or suspected) of COVID-19 patients to hospitals.
The Calcutta High Court in Vineet Ruia case had ruled that the right to a funeral ceremony can also be found in Article 25 of the Constitution of India, and therefore, the close family members of Covid-19 victims are permitted to carry out the funeral rites of the deceased in accordance with such precautionary guidelines to eliminate the possibility of infection.
The petitioners’ grievance was that at any given point of time, there was no way to know how many beds for Covid-19 patients are available in the state and private hospitals.
In this respect, there is no database which a person in need can access. In addition, the allegation is that hospitals are declining to accept Covid-19 patients, despite the availability of beds.
The State Counsel told the Court that the State Government has established a database that can be accessed by anyone and that includes all necessary details on the availability of beds in hospitals, admission of COVID-19 patients to hospitals, discharge from hospitals of those patients, etc. The counsel refuted that there was any situation where, despite the availability of beds, any government hospital denied admission to a COVID-19 patient.