NA panel seeks safeguards to protect doctors

Kathmandu, September 2

The Legislation Management Committee of the National Assembly today directed the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs to suggest enough safeguards to protect doctors from being wrongly accused of medical negligence.

The panel’s direction comes on the day Nepal Medical Council has gone on strike, demanding decriminalisation of medical negligence and recklessness.

Chair of the panel  Parshu Ram Meghi Gurung directed the MoLJPA to suggest right kind of mechanism and procedures to investigate medical negligence so that those mechanisms could be incorporated in the new penal code through amendment.

“As per the new penal code, police can be penalised for malicious investigation. But there should be a mechanism including both police and medical experts to investigate cases of medical negligence and recklessness,” Gurung told The Himalayan Times.

According to Spokesperson for the MoLJPA Ramesh Dhakal, doctors, experts and police can be included in the mechanism.“FIR can be lodged against doctors, but police should not be allowed to arrest them without investigation. This system is also in practice in India,” said Dhakal.

Lawmaker Brikhesh Chandra Lal and other lawmakers expressed concern, saying the law could be misused against doctors. Section 232 of the Criminal Code Act stipulates jail sentence not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding Rs 50,000 for a doctor found to have caused death or maimed a patient by reckless acts during the course of treatment.

The NMA has decided to halt administrative works in all the health institutions across the country tomorrow and not allow the hospitals to admit patients from September 4. It has decided to shut down all the services except emergency from September 5. Medical practitioners are opposed to sections 231, 232 and 239 of the Criminal Code Act.  Dhakal told lawmakers at the meeting that the penal code’s provisions were not new but an extension of the provisions contained in the old General Code (Muluki Ain).

According to Dhakal, out of 151 complaints lodged against doctors in the UK, government attorneys filed only 15 cases of gross medical negligence and the court convicted doctors only in six cases in 2017.

“We can be sure that 99.9 per cent doctors will not commit negligence, but we need to be mindful that some wrong elements may use doctors to commit such mistakes,” Dhakal argued.