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Doctors writing illegible medical prescriptions could create a nuisance, says Odisha HC

The high court said the Medical Council of India should mandate that doctors write in legible handwriting, preferably capital letters, so as to avoid any confusion.

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New Delhi: The Orissa High Court has asked the state government to ensure that doctors preferably write the names of drugs in capital letters so that prescriptions are “legible”.

Medical practitioners, the court Monday said, should follow the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette, Ethics) (Amendment)(Regulations) 2016 which require every physician to prescribe drugs preferably in capital letters, so that prescriptions are easy to understand.

The court was hearing a bail application of a man who sought interim relief to take care of his ailing wife. Although the applicant had produced medical records of his wife, the court found that they were of “pathetically poor legibility” and far beyond the comprehension of any common person.

It then directed the Odisha government to consult the central administration and the Medical Council of India to issue directives like in Maharashtra and Jharkhand, making it compulsory for doctors to write prescriptions either in capital letters or in a legible handwriting.

A bench of Justice S.K. Panigrahi stressed on the need for legible medical prescription to avoid any ambiguity or interpretation, particularly in matters pertaining to court.

While allowing the bail plea, the judge noted, “Such illegible scrawls composed by doctors creates unnecessary nuisance at the end of the patients, pharmacists, police, prosecutors, judges who are bound to deal with such medical reports.

“Prescriptions of physicians, OPD slips, post-mortem report, injury report etc. written, perforce, are required to be legible and fully comprehensible. A medical prescription ought not to leave any room for ambiguity or interpretation.”

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‘Bad handwriting may make doctors vulnerable’ 

The judge said that the 2016 regulations make it incumbent upon doctors to write prescription in capital letters. However, this was not being followed scrupulously, the bench remarked.

In a note of caution, the court said illegible handwriting in medical records “has the propensity” to have adverse medico-legal implications. It may make the medical practitioners vulnerable to threat of medical negligence, it said.

“The illegible or significantly lower legibility than average handwriting impedes understanding the prescriptions and stands as a barrier to proper comprehension leading to, among others, innumerable medical complications,” the judge remarked.

The bench, therefore, advised the physician community to go an extra mile to write prescriptions in “good handwriting”, preferably in capital letters.

“In this new age of consumerism and the looming threat of allegations of medical negligence, it is imminent that the professionals protect themselves by exercising this basic care and caution,” stated the order.

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