Violence against Medical Professionals: Day 1(A 2 days series)

05 March, 2018

Violence against Medical Professionals

Assault of a Doctor: A Non-Bailable Offence

Recently a Public notice has been issued by the Delhi Police stating that “a doctor is a life saver. Owing to several reasons, your doctor may be under extreme pressure and thus have regard and faith in him. Assault upon a doctor is a non-bailable criminal offence and attracts imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or fine or both under the Medicare Service Personnel and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2008.

As per the research/reports:In the past few years, more instances of violence against medical practitioners have come to light than probably in the entire last decade. With the rapid spread of information and growing awareness of instances both among the public and medical fraternity, this has created an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust on both the sides. However, what the patients fail to understand is that the core responsibility of a Medical Practitioner is to impart medical treatment and recuperation of the patient depends upon a number of physical and organic factors and thereby victimizing the Medical Practitioner if a patient doesn't respond to treatment, is not justified. Such attacks have occurred both in urban and rural areas, in both government and private hospitals.

  • Over 80% of doctors across country are reported to have faced at least some form of violence as estimated by the Indian Medical Association
  • A nationwide study conducted by IMA showed doctors face maximum violence when providing emergency services, with as many as 48.8% of such incidents reported from intensive care units (ICUs) or after a patient had undergone surgery. The main reason behind such violence is unnecessary investigations or delay in attending to a patient.
  • Violence against hospital authorities are often triggered from request of advance payments or withholding a deceased body until settlement of final billing
  • Attacks on healthcare providers generally peak during hospital visiting hours or at the time of emergency medical interventions, or post-surgery
  • The World Health Organization states, between 8% and 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. Many more are threatened or exposed to verbal aggression
  • Kin and attendants of patients behind 68% of such cases
  • Data shows escorts of patients committed 68.33% of the violence

Health-care staff are the most exposed professionals to workplace violence worldwide and innumerable incidents of violence against doctors are reported nearly on a daily basis across India, some resulting in grievous injuries. Nineteen states of India have some kind of Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of violence or damage or loss of property) Acts passed and notified in the past 10 years.

One of the organization under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, posed the following two questions before the Senior Superintendents of Police in Punjab and Haryana, the two states wherein the Prevention of Violence against Doctors Act is in place for over 8 years as to how  many complaints by doctors or hospitals were registered under these Acts against patients or attendants and secondly, how many of those accused of assault were punished under these Acts from 2010 to 2015. In the reply, it was highlighted that most complaints were not registered as a first information report (FIR), a mandatory procedure to be followed by all police officials as per the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Lalita Kumari v. the Government of Uttar Pradesh. In other cases where the FIR was lodged based on the complaint, it was cancelled after a compromise was reached between the aggrieved parties and a cancellation report was filed with the local magistrate. Very few cases have reached courts after filling of a challan but no person accused of assault on a medicare establishment has yet been penalized under the Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of violence or damage or loss of property) Acts of Punjab and Haryana from 2010 to 2015.

Shockingly, a large proportion of doctors don’t report such incidents, believing it to be part and parcel of their job so the true figures are likely to be higher. Laws to prevent violence against doctors in India do exist, but they need to be made stricter and implemented properly. It is important to reflect on how the medical profession-always held in respect in our society-has come to such a sorry pass where health-care workers need protection from the very people they are meant to take care of.

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