Not expert on treatment of COVID-19 patients, doctors’ best judge: SC

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to entertain a plea, challenging the treatment of COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and antibiotic azithromycin (AZM), saying that the apex court “is not an expert on the issue”.

A bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai, taking up the matter through video conferencing, asked the petitioner an NGO, People for Better Treatment (PBT), to make a representation before the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for its consideration.

Ohio-based Indian-origin doctor and PBT President Kunal Saha contended before the bench that he has not challenged the line of treatment for COVID-19, instead the use of HCQ and AZM combination has side effects, and these proving fatal on the people.

The bench noted that there is no medicine for the viral infection and doctors are trying different ways, and if a treatment is being followed or not, it has to be decided by the doctor. “If particular type of treatment has to be given, it is for doctors’ to decide”, said the bench.

When, Saha contended warning has been issued regarding the side effects by an American heart institute, which should be taken into consideration, Justice Ramana said, “Can a court say use this type of treatment? Are we experts?”

The bench asked Saha to take this petition as a representation before ICMR, which can examine the suggestions made.

Saha insisted that the argument is not about whether a particular line of treatment is correct or not, instead it is about taking precautions, as people are dying due to side effects. He told the court that an informed consent from the patient is required, as he/she has a right to know if there is a risk involved in a particular line of treatment. The patient should decide whether he/she is willing to take the risk, added Saha.

The bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Centre, to provide the petition to ICMR.

The PIL contended that use of HCQ and AZM was recommended for most serious COVID-19 patients by the Health Ministry, which was primarily based on anecdotal evidence and not as a specific therapy.

“Ministry of Health has specifically advised that although no specific anti-viral medicines are available against COVID-19, a combination of HCQ and AZM may be administered as an ‘off-label’ use to the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients who are in ICU,” said the plea.

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