The Orissa High Court made observations on the poor legibility of medical prescriptions during a bail hearing
The Orissa High Court made observations on the poor legibility of medical prescriptions during a bail hearing
Litigation News

"Detective work" needed to decipher illegible doctors' scrawls: Orissa HC urges State to issue circulars on medical prescription handwriting

"This court feels, it is imperative that the entire physician community need to go an extra mile and make conscious efforts to write prescriptions in good handwriting preferably in CAPITAL LETTERS", the Court said.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

Recording its frustration with a doctor's poor handwriting in a medical report, the Orissa High Court recently made pertinent observations on the importance of legible handwriting by doctors while hearing a bail plea (Krishna Pad Mandal v. State of Orissa).

An illegible medical report that was examined as part of the case led the Court to take critical note of the larger issue. The order passed on Monday records,

"... considerable time and frustration associated with detective work in so far as medical reports/doctors’ prescriptions are concerned. Such illegible scrawls composed by doctors creates an unnecessary nuisance at the end of the patients, pharmacists, Police, prosecutors, judges who are bound to deal with such medical reports."
Orissa High Court

Justice SK Panigrahi noted that the problem was such that "On many occasions, the pharmacists find it difficult to decipher what is written in the prescription. Sometimes, even some physicians fail to read their own handwriting", it was noted.

The Court further observed,

"This court feels, it is imperative that the entire physician community need to go an extra mile and make conscious efforts to write prescriptions in good handwriting preferably in CAPITAL LETTERS. The digital era could also throw open several options to make prescriptions and the diagnosis more patient friendly."
"If you're stumped, why not write an illegible prescription and hope the pharmacist comes up with something?"
"If you're stumped, why not write an illegible prescription and hope the pharmacist comes up with something?" Kaz

The judge went on to observe that legible handwriting would help overcome barriers of comprehension and reduce complications in treatment.

To this end, the Court suggested that doctors make their notes in uppercase letters only or resort to the digital medium. This was imperative, especially in cases with medico-legal questions.

The Court also noted that a notificatin was issued in 2016 by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to amend its Ethics Regulations, whereby doctors were exhorted to write medicine prescriptions in "CAPITAL LETTERS."

Justice Panigrahi pointed out that even the State governments of Maharashtra and Jharkhand had issued circulars to that effect.

Requesting the Odisha government to follow suit, the Court has called upon the State's Chief Secretary to "examine the feasibility of issuing appropriate circulars" to implement the MCI Regulation on prescription handwriting.

The Judge also called for awareness to be spread on the importance of legible handwriting among medical professionals in medico-legal cases.

The Court was hearing a plea for interim bail by a person charged with an offence under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. His case was still being tried by a Court.

After his wife developed gynaecological, cardiovascular and haematological problems, he applied for interim bail because she had no one to care for her during her illnesses. Her medical report was produced in court, and the Court deciphered it "with much difficulty".

“…the prescription by the doctor is pathetically poor legibility and is far beyond the comprehension of any common man or even for this Court which is dealing with the matter", the Court observed.

However, after verifying the genuineness of the bail applicant's case, the Court ultimately allowed his enlargement on bail for a month subject to stringent conditions.

Read the Order here:

Krishna Pad Mandal v. State of Orissa - Order dated August 10, 2020.pdf
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