New law proposed to protect doctors from violence

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With doctors and healthcare workers regularly coming under attack from relatives and friends of patients, the Union Health Ministry has proposed a new law to tackle such cases of mob violence in hospitals and clinics.

Titled the Healthcare Services Personnel and Clinical establishment (prohibition of violence and damage to the property) Bill 2019, the draft proposes punishment ranging from six months to ten years of imprisonment, depending on the nature of the crime, along with a fine that can vary between Rs 50,000 to Rs five lakhs.

In case of any property damage, the convicted person may have to pay twice the amount of fair market value of the vandalised property.

Those who attack healthcare personnel or incite violence against them would be punished with six months to five years of imprisonment, along with fines up to Rs five lakhs. If the violence led to any grievous injury, imprisonment goes up to ten years with fine up to 10 lakhs.

A draft of the proposed legislation was released weeks after serious mob violence against medical students in a government hospital in Kolkata led to protests from doctors all over the country. The Indian Medical Association has also demanded a law to protect doctors.

In yet another incidence of mob violence earlier this week, a 73-year-old doctor, Deben Dutta was killed in a mob attack at Teok Tea Estate in Assam following the death of a patient.

“It's important to have a law to protect doctors like public servants. But it is equally important to address other fundamental reasons, like lack of communication to the patient's family so that they can receive the news of any tragedy with a sense of understanding rather than a sense of anger,” K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India told DH.

“There's a huge lack of communication between doctors and patients. Doctors are overworked and barely have time for the patient's families. Hospitals are required to improve their public relations to ensure that the bond of trust between doctors and patients are not lost,” observed K Sujatha Rao, former Union Health Secretary.

Reddy also underscored the need to improve medical infrastructure and employ medico-social workers to reduce the cloud of mistrust that led to anger.

The proposed law – now opens for public comments till October 2 - protects not only doctors but nurses, paramedics, and medical students. In addition to hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories, come under its ambit too.

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