Unbiased opinion must in medical termination of pregnancy cases

The court said the gravity of MTP cases demands not only speed but also the highest precision to ensure that the rights and health of the petitioners are adequately safeguarded.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

NEW DELHI : In a significant ruling, the Delhi High Court has emphasised that medical professionals must offer their expert opinions in cases of termination of pregnancy without fear of legal consequences. The court’s observations came while ruling in favour of a petitioner, a 31-year-old woman, seeking to undergo medical termination of her 30-weeks pregnancy after the foetus was found diagnosed with Joubert Syndrome, a severe multisystem disorder.

Justice Sanjeev Narula, while passing the order, stressed upon the importance of providing the best possible medical guidance in such sensitive matters.

The petitioner, living with her husband and a 9-year-old son with a mental disability, initially faced rejection from Lok Nayak Hospital’s medical board. The board’s decision was based on inconclusive medical reports and scans.

In response, the court ordered re-evaluation by an AIIMS medical board, which, after thorough examination and antenatal MRI scans, recommended termination of the pregnancy. The court found the AIIMS report to be more reliable and definitive, leading to the approval of the plea.

“Medical professionals must offer their expert opinions without fear of legal repercussions, and focus on providing the best possible medical guidance in such sensitive matters… the opinions of the medical board cannot be sketchy and fragmented; they must be comprehensive and meticulously detailed,” read the order.

Justice Narula further said the gravity of medical termination pregnancy cases demands not only speed but also the highest precision to ensure that the rights and health of the petitioners are adequately safeguarded. “In the present case, the medical board at Lok Nayak Hospital did not meet the court’s expectations. Despite the serious nature of the matter, the board failed to conduct necessary tests and did not approach the issue with the required level of seriousness. When the court directed them to form a board, the subsequent report remained inadequate and lacked thorough evaluation,” the order stated.

Justice Narula noted the crucial role of medical professionals in society, saying the court’s intention is not to demoralize them. “Yet, it is imperative to highlight the significance of their responsibility in such sensitive matters. The delay and inadequate counselling of the petitioner has resulted in an advanced stage of pregnancy. This underscores the need for the medical board to act with greater diligence and urgency in future cases,” the court said.

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