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Can doctors refuse to admit patients in hospital?

Preservation of human life is of paramount importance - Supreme Court

The prime object of the medical profession is to render service to humanity; reward or financial gain is a subordinate consideration, but in recent times we have seen how hospitals are refusing to treat patients on some or other excuses, especially financial gain.


If you get injured and require emergency services you may approach the nearest Primary Health centre or the hospital (including private) for treatment which may require admission. The hospital has can not deny the admission on excuses like non availability of bed or financial reasons, if they are equipped to handle such cases; even if that means the patient is to be treated on floor. (Pt. Parmanand Katara v UOI, 1989)


As per directions of NCDRC in the case of Pravat Kumar Mukherjee v UOI (2005),Doctors and hospitals (not just free but paid as well) who render free service to persons, fall within the ambit of expression “service” u/s 2(1)(o) of Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Persons who are rendered the free service are beneficiaries and are Consumers u/s 2(1)(d) of Act.

Thus, the aggrieved patient may approach consumer court for Hospitals including private hospitals are providing service.


The Code of Medical Ethics in Chapter 2 provide for relevant clauses pertaining to present issue.

2.1.1 A physician advising a patient to seek service of another physician is acceptable, however, in case of emergency a physician must treat the patient. No physician shall arbitrarily refuse treatment to a patient. However for good reason, when a patient is suffering from an ailment which is not within the range of experience of the treating physician, the physician may refuse treatment and refer the patient to another physician.

2.4 - A physician is free to choose whom he will serve. He should, however, respond to any request for his assistance in an emergency.


Thus, if hospital is equipped to care, they must care and then only can they refer or discharge or refuse (must make an entry into admission register with reasons for refusal or admission or referral). The same can be understood in the case of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoorsamity v State of WB (1996), wherein Mr. Hakim who got injured while falling from a train and had to visit more than 4 hospitals in one day for getting treated only to find out that he had heammorahage. The government health centres refused to admit on ground of non availability of beds and other reasons, without even providing basic care. Thus, the suggestions of committee constituted by court were accepted by the WB govt. and rest of the states were advised to implement the same.

In the case it was held that:

  • The primary health centre should attend patient and give proper medical aid, if equipped.
  • The emergency Department must admit patients who are in serious/moribund conditions.
  • If necessary, such patients should be accommodated in trolley beds or even on floor when it's absolutely necessary through internal adjustments.
  • Everyone has a Right to Life under Article 21 which includes right to get adequate medical care.

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