The Delhi High Court has allowed a private hospital to transport an ultrasound machine to the house of a 70-year-old, who is suffering from a debilitating illness and is under domiciliary hospitalisation.
As the high court gave its permission to Fortis Hospital, it observed that the man’s right to life would be violated if provisions of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, are interpreted in a manner that prevents him from accessing essential medical equipment.
The man suffers from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which attacks the brain and nerve cells causing acute problems with balance, movement, vision and speech, and is receiving treatment at a home ICU.
The court was informed that he has been taken to the hospital to undergo an ultrasound procedure but his condition deteriorated during the process. He cannot be taken to the clinic for an ultrasound for removing the infected Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) line, his lawyers argued in a petition urgently listed before the court on Saturday.
The PNDT Act, the rules framed under it as well as a notification issued by the Delhi Government in February 2015, prevents him from accessing a portable ultrasound machine that is required immediately to administer the prescribed medical treatment, the lawyers also argued before the court.
If the PICC line is not replaced immediately, it may have dire consequences for his already frail condition, the medical reports placed before the court said.
Justice Sanjeev Narula in an order released on Monday said the purpose of enacting the PNDT Act was to prevent the misuse of ultrasound machines for sex determination. However, Justice Narula added, in extraordinary circumstances, courts can always make an exception on the use of ultrasound machinery.
“The purpose of enacting the PNDT Act was to prevent the misuse of ultrasound machines for sex determination; however, in extraordinary circumstances, the Courts can always make an exception on the use of the ultrasound machinery,” said the bench.
The court further said that in a medical emergency case where a petitioner is genuinely not in a position to be transported to a location where the machine is available, and where a procedure has been prescribed for a patient in domiciliary care, the provisions of the PNDT Act and the government notification cannot come in their way.
“It also merits noting that the rationale for the introduction of the said prohibitory provisions in the PNDT Act was in the context of prevention of the social evil of pre-natal sex determination, which is very far removed from the facts of the instant case; therefore, the providing the said machine to the Petitioner is clearly not in contravention of the objective promoted by the PNDT Act. Nevertheless, to ensure compliance with the provisions of the PNDT Act, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj is directed to ensure that the machine is used only for the treatment of the Petitioner and for no other purpose whatsoever,” read the order further.
Directing Fortis Hospital to transport the machine, the court said that its directions shall be implemented under the supervision of the district magistrate of New Delhi or Najafgarh along with the concerned chief district medical officer of the districts.
The court has also said that since similar situations can also be faced by others, the questions of law require further deliberation. The matter will come up before the roster bench on September 7.