Doctors given immunity in draft healthcare law
The draft medical care protection act giving healthcare providers "immunity" for negligence in treatment during "any act in good faith" has come under serious criticism from health experts, journalists, and lawyers.
They said this would make for a "draconian law" where common people will be deprived of justice.
The draft “Medical Care Protection Act, 2016” says, “Any act accomplished under the law in good faith will not be considered a crime and complaints cannot be filed to the court against him/her for the act.”
Criticising the provision, Supreme Court lawyer Abdul Baset Majumder said, “Those who remain in power and apply power are often found having immunity. None is above law and should enjoy immunity.”
Doctors sometimes give wrong treatment, and all should be equal to law, he said.
The comments came at a discussion on the draft act, organised by Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (Swachip), a pro-ruling party doctors' forum, at Jatiya Press Club in the capital yesterday.
The health ministry drafted the law against the backdrop of attacks on healthcare providers -- doctors, nurses, hospital assistants, and other caregivers -- by patients' relatives, who accused them of negligence or wrong treatment. The healthcare providers also responded by going on work stoppage or strikes, affecting healthcare.
Swachip Secretary General Prof MA Aziz said the country's healthcare providers worked amid various limitations and tried their best to serve.
Some of them might be negligent, but that must be dealt with in a systematic manner, not in a manner that sets doctors and patients against each other.
Deputy Attorney General Motaher Hossain Saju appreciated the initiative of enacting such a law but opposed the discriminatory provisions.
According to the draft act, negligence of healthcare providers will constitute a cognisable crime, but it will be bailable and negotiable, whereas threats to the healthcare providers, hindering their jobs, assaulting them or destroying any properties of the care-giving institution will be considered crimes, and they will be cognisable, non-bailable and non-negotiable.
These are discriminations, said Motaher Hossain.
Former health minister AFM Ruhal Haque said the law should not be meant to protect doctors, but to improve healthcare and relationship between the service providers and recipients.
He said the Bangladesh Medical & Dental Council (BMDC), a regulatory body for doctors, should handle the major aspects of healthcare or negligence. The law should differentiate clearly the crimes to be dealt with by BMDC and the court.
Ruhal Haque, also a former president of Swachip, advised doctors to stop taking bribes from pharmaceutical companies. “There is an increasing trend. We should look into it seriously. Doctors are earning a bad name for this.”
Samakal Editor Golam Sarwar, journalist and novelist Rahat Khan, health rights activist Prof Rashid E Mahbub, and Bangladesh Health Reporters' Forum President Toufiq Maruf also spoke at the discussion, chaired by Swachip President Prof Iqbal Arslan.