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Immunity to physicians not well conceived

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17th-Mar-2017       
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THE draft Medical Care Protection Act that proposes to give immunity to healthcare providers for negligence in treatment has come under serious scanning from health experts and rights groups. Terming the move draconian, rights campaigners have rightly said the act will deprive common people getting justice for even wilful neglect in duty that at times may even cause death to patients. Amidst the mushrooming of private medical college producing poorly qualified physicians the risks are high.

Moreover patients' life has become increasingly vulnerable in recent time from sporadic strike by physicians, intern doctors, politicization of their profession and indifference to obeying hospital rules and discipline. When the country needs restoring professional discipline to improve the quality of treating patients, such immunity as proposed in the Draft Law will make healthcare services more vulnerable without accountability of any sort for professional failing.

The Draft Law says any act accomplished in good faith will not be considered a crime and complaints cannot be filed to the court against the physicians for the act. But question arises who will determine whether or not some casualties have taken place from action in good faith or from sheer neglect to duty. In many cases physicians give wrong treatment to patients causing immense suffering or death to patients. Surgeons leave bandage or operation knife inside stomach and such mindless actions can't be challenged because the doctor may say he was over worked and it was an unwilling mistake.

The Health Ministry draft justified the clause pointing to attacks on healthcare providers - doctors, nurses, hospital assistants and others from patients' relatives. This is true but doctors are blamed for neglect of duty on most occasions. The draft justifies the provision saying many physicians are now losing interests to hospital services fearing accusation of wrong treatment. It partly aims at mitigating the physicians fear.

But they can't rule out that physicians are not attentive to timely attending patients causing serious incontinences and even death. Only a judicial review of such complaints can make sure who is wrong and who is right. But now if a legal complaint can't be lodged or a wrong-doer enjoys legal immunity from being held accountable for a wrong treatment, chaos may only overtake healthcare services.

It appears that we are through a time when road transport workers are enjoying immunity from killing of people in road accidents on the highway saying it is not a wilful murder.  Law enforcers are enjoying immunity from torturing people before proving their guilt and ruling party men are enjoying freedom to act on their will. In our view such licensing will only spread chaos and people such as the physicians will become more and more irresponsible because they know that they are not punishable for neglect to duty. We would ask the government to review the clause.

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