The Delhi government on Monday issued a draft advisory for private hospitals that includes, among others, a proposal to waive a certain percentage of the treatment cost in the case of the patient’s death. The government has invited suggestions from the public for a month, and the proposals will then be sent to the Cabinet and lieutenant governor for approval.

A key proposal in the draft policy is that private hospitals must not hold patients’ bodies hostage if their families are unable to pay the bills before the funeral. However, this does not mean bills can be waived, and hospitals should take legal action if the patients’ families do not pay up later, said Health Minister Satyendar Jain, according to PTI.

“There has to be dignity in death,” Jain said. “A body cannot be held hostage just for bills. After death, a body belongs to the society, and final rites must be performed.”

According to another provision in the proposal, patients’ families will get a 50% waiver on the cost of treatment if the patient dies within six hours of being taken to a hospital emergency. If the patient dies within 24 hours, the bill will be waived by 20% if the proposal comes into effect.

“There have been a lot of complaints of overcharging and malpractices in private hospitals,” Jain said, according to the Hindustan Times. “This policy will help increase transparency.”

The draft policy was prepared on the basis of the recommendations of a nine-member expert panel headed by Director-General of Health Services Kirti Bhushan. The state government had set up the panel on December 13.

The draft also proposes that doctors in private hospitals and nursing homes should preferably prescribe drugs from the National List of Essential Medicines – which is drawn up by the Union Health Ministry and revised every few years – and that they should consult patients before administering drugs not included in this list.

A private hospital or a nursing home that violates the norms after the policy comes into effect could lose its licence to operate in Delhi, Jain said.

Max Healthcare called the advisory “quite harsh from the perspective of private health care services providers”.

“We completely understand the need for transparency and fair and reasonable profits,” the hospital chain said. “The reality, however, is quite different. Most private players are making losses or single-digit returns which don’t even cover the cost of capital. Some of the recommendations may also adversely impact patient care and quality.”