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Doctors to Explain Drug Side Effects: Delhi High Court Dismisses Plea, Cites Existing Legislation

Delhi High Court Dismisses Plea to Mandate Doctors to Explain Drug Side Effects, Cites Existing Legislation

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea that sought to require doctors to explain all potential risks and side effects of prescribed medications to patients, noting that this responsibility is already designated to manufacturers and pharmacists by law.

“Since the legislature in its wisdom has chosen to impose this duty on the manufacturer and the pharmacist, we find no basis for issuing a direction as requested in this PIL, as it would amount to judicial legislation,” stated a bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora in their May 15 order, released on Saturday.

The plea was filed by Jacob Vadakkanchery, a self-proclaimed naturopath and social worker. Vadakkanchery argued that prescribing a drug without detailing its possible side effects does not constitute obtaining valid patient consent.

Filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, the plea contended that while the Drugs and Cosmetics Act requires manufacturers to inform consumers of potential risks and side effects, this obligation should also extend to doctors.

In response, the Centre, represented by standing counsel Ravi Prakash and advocate Ali Khan, argued that existing legislation sufficiently ensures that patients are made aware of potential side effects. They also stated that imposing additional requirements on doctors, who are already overburdened, would hinder rather than help medical practice.

The National Medical Commission, represented by advocate T Singhdev, further argued that mandating doctors to provide information in all regional languages was impractical, as doctors work across India and may not be fluent in every language. Additionally, they warned that such an obligation could expose doctors to future negligence claims.

As a result, the court dismissed the petition, observing that since the plea acknowledged existing legislation, the requested directions could not be issued. “Since in the present PIL it is admitted that there is no legislative gap, the directions sought cannot be issued,” the court concluded.

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