Mumbai: Doctors cannot fold hands and leave the patients at the mercy of the almighty God in absence of a proper vaccination, the Bombay High Court said on Friday while allowing the Maharashtra government and BMC to use hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in treating Covid-19 patients. The HC also said that the authorities must ensure proper upkeep of quarantine centers and prevent them from becoming cesspool for the virus.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed also asked the authorities to distribute Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) rationally.
The bench was dealing with a clutch of petitions highlighting various issues emanating from the corona crisis.
HCQ can be used
One of the petitions challenged the use of HCQ in treating Covid patients claiming that the same could have an adverse impact on a human being. The petitions also claimed that since HCQ isn't registered as a medicine to treat patients infected by coronavirus.
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While trashing their claims, CJ Datta said, "In a given case, if abiding by the law stricto sensu and waiting for a clinical trial of a drug would result in loss of valuable time for saving a patient. The choice is between the devil and the deep sea i.e, no other drug except an HCQ sort of a drug, though not clinically tried for treating the disease, is the last option left for a doctor to save the life of such patient."
"Should the doctor fold his hands and leave the patient to the mercy of the almighty on the ground that the relevant drug has not been registered for use as a prophylaxis? The answer, we are minded to hold, should be in the negative," CJ added.
The judges further noted the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has not banned the use of HCQ as a prophylaxis to treat COVID positive patients.
"It has also not been established that physical harm caused by the administration of HCQ far outweighs its benefits. Thus, in absence of reference to any specific incident where administration of HCQ has proved fatal, dissuades us from restraining the authoritied from administering HCQ as a prophylaxis, till such time the ICMR prescribes something to the contrary," the judges said, adding, "However, it should not be administered to children below the age of 15 years and to pregnant and lactating women."
Use PPEs rationally
Referring to petitions seeking PPEs for health workers treating non-Covid patients, the state and civic body argued that it was providing proper gear to health workers treating nonCovid patients. But the proper PPE kit was only being distributed to health workers treating Covid patients.
Accepting the argument, the judges said, "There has to be a rational use of PPEs considering the demand for it and that the state and the BMC are under no obligation to distribute the same to all and sundry. Distribution of PPEs, without doubt, must be need based."
"We hope and trust that the state and the BMC shall be rational in distribution of PPEs and leave no room for complaint in regard to its distribution and the other kits in keeping with the demands of the situation," the judges added.
Quarantine centers cannot be cesspool for virus
On complaints of mismanagement of quarantine facilities and poor quality, the judges said, "There can be no gainsaying that having regard to the purpose that a quarantine center seeks to serve, such centers should not themselves turn into a cesspool for the virus and contribute the spread of infection."
The bench however, refrained from passing any mandatory direction to the BMC as no specific deficiency on its part to maintain such centers, was placed on record.
While the judges accepted the statement of the BMC regarding maintaining proper conditions, it also granted liberty for lodging complaints, if in case any deficiency in service at any quarantine center maintained by the BMC, is noticed.
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