In the wake of recent protests regarding the treatment of doctors by patients kin, The Union Health Ministry has entrusted an eight-member sub-committee with the task of drafting a central law to check violence against medical professionals. The panel comprising representatives from the Medical Council of India, Indian Medical Association (IMA), AIIMS RDA, etc. has been directed to submit a report by July 17.
It has become increasingly common for doctors to be jostled, roughed up or beaten by angry relatives of the recently deceased. Doctors have been demanding better medical conditions for a while now. But matters came to a head after the brutal attack of a junior doctor in NRS Medical College Kolkata.
Paribaha Mukhopadhyay was walking down a corridor with a colleague when a group of men attacked them. Neither doctor had been involved in treating Mohammed Sayeed, 75, who died at the hospital on 10 June, but in a fit of rage relatives attacked the first doctors they saw, turning the hospital briefly into a battleground, according to witnesses of the assault. Mukhopadhyay suffered a fractured skull and needed a craniotomy.
About 800,000 doctors across India went on strike on 17 June to demand better working conditions, following years of complaints about violent attacks from patients’ families. Doctors from all over the country gradually joined the strike out of solidarity, and on Monday almost all the country’s doctors walked out to demand better protection. They also wrote to then, Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of the law, saying it should have the provision of minimum seven-year jail sentence to violators.
Union Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan has supported the demand for the central law and said such crimes should be made non-bailable. He wrote to all states, requesting the chief ministers to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting medical professionals from any form of violence, along with suggesting a model law proposed by the IMA.
The committee on Friday, examined the “pros and cons” of bringing such a central legislation and contemplated on the ways to increase protection for medical establishments. The next meeting will be held on July 22 to consider the draft legislation made by the sub-committee.
The members noted that such incidents have become a matter of routine and are recurrent in nature, and are happening in both government and private establishments, the minutes of the meeting said.
The several factors contributing to these incidents like infrastructural gaps, weak security, insufficient facilities of counselling of attendants, unregulated entry of trespassers, lack of fear of stringent legal provisions, overburdened doctors, etc. were also taken into consideration. The council also noted that although 18 states already had laws regarding such cases. Medical practitioners were not satisfied with its implementation.
Violence against doctors is certainly not India specific. It is a global phenomenon.The US, Britain, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan have all had victims of violence. IMA surveys reveal that 75% of doctors have complained of verbal abuse and 12% of physical violence. Doctors have traditionally been regarded highly by society. But the present impression of private business-mindedness and negative media coverage many view doctors with a feeling of troubled dependence. Doctors have turned a soft target for the public but the media too. Such regulations are necessary to ensure their safety.