Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) and Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (Swachip) leaders met with Health and Family Welfare Minister Mohammad Nasim on February 15 this year at his Secretariat office to discuss the draft act.
The leaders demanded that the minister ensure full protection for the doctors under the proposed law.
Accordingly, the draft contains a provision of a maximum of three years in jail or up to Tk5 lakh as fine for assaulting doctors in any health service-related issues.
The act aims to avoid clashes between doctors and nurses and patients or their attendants. It will also protect health service providers from any incidents which arise regarding malpractice allegations.
In Bangladesh, doctors and nurses are often assaulted by patients or their attendants, especially in cases where the patient dies and their families allege medical malpractice as the root cause.
In these cases, if doctors end up injured, they unite and call strikes. As a result, all the hospital’s activities are shut down and critical patients stop receiving care.
Once such recent case occurred on February 20, when intern doctors attacked a patient’s attendant at Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital in Bogra. Subsequently, the intern doctors called a strike during which all patients seeking healthcare from the hospital were turned away from the gate.
The draft act, however, does not contain any provision which will stop doctors from calling such strikes and shutting down of hospitals and health services systems.
Health Minister Nasim told the Dhaka Tribune: “I never support such strikes at hospitals. I have sent a directive to the officials concerned to make a note of this issue in the draft.”
The proposed draft also does not define “wrong treatment” and contains no punishment for malpractice. It only notes that any negligence by a doctor will be considered an offence. Medical malpractice is a fairly regular occurrence in Bangladesh.
On January 5 this year, a patient died at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital. When the victim’s family claimed the doctor’s negligence as the cause of death, the doctor and nurse fled from the hospital.
As per the draft act, law enforcers cannot detain doctors in malpractice cases without permission from the court. In alleged malpractice cases, a three-member probe committee will be formed to investigate the accusations and the doctors will only be held liable if the probe committee finds evidence.
Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC) - the only body where complaints can be formally lodged by victims of medical malpractice - received 337 written allegations over the past six years.
Out of all these, only one doctor was punished.
Prof Md Sharfuddin Ahmed, pro-VC of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and member of the BMDC, said: “The BMDC does not have any legal power to act on complaints. If the government empowers the council, more health service providers will be called to task and so will become careful in discharging their duties.”