Global Comparative Research on Right to Emergency Medical Care


In 2021, nearly 4,00,000 deaths in India were designated as “accidental deaths” and a majority of them were caused due to road crashes. In the last five years alone over 7,00,000 people have died in India due to road crashes. A 2020 report by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India stated that well-established trauma care systems are capable of reducing such deaths by nearly 20-25% and serious disabilities by more than half. Multiple assessments of different components of the emergency medical care system in India though have indicated the distinct lack of such trauma care systems.

The 2021 Emergency and Injury Care at District Hospitals in India report by NITI Aayog and AIIMS, found that compliance with availability of overall recommended biomedical equipment and critical equipment was largely deficient in district hospitals, to the tune of 45-60%. The report also revealed that none of the district hospitals studied had all the essential emergency department medicines.

To gauge where the gap lies with regard to available emergency medical care in India, both in terms of written statutes and systems available, SLF in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service, the TrustLaw Network, undertook this global study. The research studied both developed and developing nations including the United States of America, Germany, England and Wales, Malaysia, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa and India to report on the prevalence of legal statutes guaranteeing emergency medical care as a Statutory Right and the availability of commensurate systems to ensure the same.

The research that forms the foundation of this report was completed with pro bono assistance provided by (in alphabetical order) Dechert LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright and White & Case LLP, facilitated by TrustLaw.

Listed below are the five distinct emergency medical care aspects studied for each of the ten countries:

Availability of guaranteed/statutory right to emergency medical care

Existence of separate federal and state laws and/or guidelines on the right and access to emergency medical care, and the ways in which they are harmonised and enforced

Status of emergency medical care funding, including state, insurance and privately-sourced funding

Mechanisms at the Federal and State level to regulate referrals at hospitals/trauma care centres, and established protocols.

Specific guidelines/regulations to address traumatic injuries on highways.

Though India doesn’t have legislative statutes guaranteeing emergency medical care as a right, landmark court judgments such as Parmanand Katara v. Union of India and Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samithi v. State of West Bengal, by the Supreme Court of India, have sought to interpret emergency medical care as a right within the purview of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, without explicitly prescribing basic minimum standards for various facets of emergency medical care or punitive measures for violation of such a right.Through this comparative analysis, the report argues that trauma care helps preserve our fundamental Right to Life, and to ensure that a system with interlinked sub-systems and uniform standards is necessary. The report further argues that a legislation for the “Right to Trauma Care” would ensure a framework to establish such standards and systems exist with appropriate authority, accountability and long-term sustainability, and is thus the need of the hour to help ensure against the tremendous loss of life witnessed due to, “accidental deaths.”

Executive Summary

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Jurisdiction-specific Comparison

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Full Report

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