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414                                              MEDICAL -JURISPRUDENCE

In order to prove that reasonable care and diligence and necessary pro-
fessional skill had been exercised in the course of the treatment a medical
practitioner should take the following precautions before he undertakes to
administer an anaesthetic or perform an operation : —

1.   The  administration  of  an  anaesthetic   or  the  performance   of  an
operation should not be undertaken without the consent of the patient, or his
guardian, if he is minor or unconscious, after the nature and consequences
of the operation have been explained to him or to his guardian.   But in cases
of accident or other emergency where delay is dangerous an operation may
be performed without the consent of the patient or his relative or guardian,
if the medical attendant thinks that the operation is absolutely necessary to
save the life of the patient.

In a case where the surgeon is not sure what he would have to do during
the operation owing to some obscure signs, he should obtain a written
authority to use his discretion in doing what appears to him to be in the best
interests of the patient.

2.   In a case of criminal wounding an operation ought not to be per-
formed, unless it is absolutely necessary.   In such a case care should be
taken to keep an accurate record of the state of the patient before it is
performed.   It is also better, before performing any operation, to get the
opinion and help of another surgeon, if possible.

3.   An anaesthetist should be  a  duly  qualified man,  and he  should
always administer a generally accepted anaesthetic, after he has examined
the heart, urine, etc. of the patient to prove that he had used reasonable care
and skill in administering it.

4.   In the case of death from anaesthesia the surgeon or anaesthetist
should at once report the matter to the police for holding a public inquiry.

Contributory Negligence.—Contributory negligence consists in not avoid-
ing the consequences to one's self brought about by the negligence of
another person, e.g. a medical practitioner, by exercising reasonable care and
caution and following instructions given for one's own benefit. The doctrine
of contributory negligence is not recognized by law in an indictment of
criminal negligence, but is a good defence in cases of civil liabilities, and is
taken into consideration by the court while awarding damages to the plain-
tiff. The onus of proof of contributory negligence on the part of the person
injured rests entirely on the defendant.



A medical practitioner may be held responsible civilly, but not crimi-
nally, for a negligent act of a nurse, student or assistant employed to carry
out nursing and medical duties of his patients, if the act was committed in
bis presence and to which he acquiesced. The principle is that " as a general
role ,a man is responsible for any wrongful act done by his agent or sub-
0«lfeate provided such act is within the reasonable scope of their
enjoyment"; But he is not held responsible, if the negligent act was done
la Ms absence and the nurse, student or assistant was considered quite
competent to perform the act and had traversed beyond his instructions in
committing it

In a case where a swab, sponge, instrument or some other foreign object
is left in the patient's body after an operation the surgeon renders himself
liable for damages, even ibough; it is the theatre sister's responsibility to
count all the swabs* spoils and. instruments used during the operation,
Inasmuch as the theatre^ 'sister'-and other assistants were acting under the
direct and immediate s^erroforl of the surgeon so long as the operation