The Kerala High Court Takes Suo Moto Action on Newborn’s Death Case at Cochin Birth Village. The Kerala High Court recently took suo motu action by impleading the District Police Chief (Rural) Ernakulam as an additional respondent in a plea filed by a couple alleging that their newborn child died due to a lack of proper care and medical treatment at the Cochin Birth Village, a natural birthing center that offers midwifery care. Justice Devan Ramachandran noted the seriousness of the issue and the need for swift action from the competent authorities.

During the hearing, Advocate Raghul Sudheesh, representing the petitioners, informed the court that the Cochin Birth Village continues to operate and attracts expectant mothers with fanciful and misleading advertisements through social media and newspapers. The court sought information on whether the institution has the necessary licenses and clearances from the competent authorities for its operation.

The petitioners, a couple, welcomed their child on January 20, 2023, through a normal vaginal delivery at the Cochin Birth Village. This birthing center promotes the midwifery model of care for childbirth and positions itself as a healthier alternative to hospitals. The petitioners alleged that despite paying more than eighty-eight thousand rupees for their child’s birth at the Cochin Birth Village, the institution was understaffed during the delivery and lacked skilled doctors and essential facilities, as promised. The child was born with a yellowish skin tone and exhibited symptoms of infant jaundice, which, the petitioners claim, were not treated properly by the staff. The child was discharged hastily on January 22, 2023, and developed a high fever before passing away on the same day.

The court has yet to receive the post-mortem report of the child. In their plea, the petitioners call for the regulation of birth centers that follow the midwifery model of care under the National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Act, 2023. They contend that the 2023 Act does not comprehensively address midwifery birth centers, necessitating the formulation of new rules for their regulation.

Justice Devan Ramachandran took a proactive stance, noting the seriousness of the allegations and the need for swift action. By suo motu impleading the District Police Chief (Rural) Ernakulam, the court intends to ensure that proper inquiries are conducted into the matter. The court directed the Government Pleader to obtain specific instructions from the District Police Chief regarding the actions taken or proposed against the Cochin Birth Village and other relevant institutions.

The case has been scheduled for further consideration on November 11, 2023. Advocates Raghul Sudheesh, J. Lakshmi, Bini Das, Elizabeth Mathew, and Dharsana A. represent the petitioners. Central Government Counsel Mini Gopinath, Government Pleader Vidya Kuriakose, and Standing Counsel Abraham P. Meachinkara represent the respondents.

The Cochin Birth Village case highlights the importance of regulating birthing centers, particularly those following the midwifery model of care. The plea filed by the petitioners reflects their concerns about the quality of care provided by such institutions and the need for comprehensive regulation to ensure the safety and well-being of mothers and newborns.

The case also underscores the significance of legal actions initiated by the courts in cases involving public interest and potential violations of the law. By taking suo motu action and impleading the District Police Chief, the Kerala High Court aims to address the concerns raised by the petitioners and ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted into the matter.

The court’s decision to seek information on the Cochin Birth Village’s licenses and clearances from competent authorities demonstrates its commitment to upholding the law and protecting the rights and well-being of citizens. The case serves as a reminder of the judiciary’s role in safeguarding public interests and holding institutions accountable for their actions.

As the case unfolds and further inquiries are conducted, it will be essential to ensure transparency, adherence to legal procedures, and the fair treatment of all parties involved. The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on the regulation of birthing centers in Kerala and potentially influence similar cases in other parts of India.

The petitioners’ call for the regulation of midwifery birth centersunder the National Nursing and Midwifery Commission Act, 2023, raises important questions about the adequacy of existing legal frameworks in addressing the specific concerns of such institutions. The case highlights the need for ongoing legislative and regulatory efforts to ensure the safety and quality of care provided in birthing centers, particularly those operating under the midwifery model of care.

As the case continues to develop, it will be closely monitored to determine the implications for birthing centers, maternal and child healthcare, and the broader legal and regulatory landscape governing healthcare institutions in India. The Kerala High Court’s proactive approach in this case sets a significant precedent for addressing similar concerns in the future and underscores the judiciary’s role in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights and interests of citizens.

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