Medical Malpractice

Healthbeat 2002 No. 3.jpgHealthbeat 2002 No. 3.jpg

In the middle of the year, another health issue commanded wide media mileage – the proposed medical malpractice law. If passed, it will punish not only doctors but other health workers as well with six to 12 years imprisonment, cancellation of license and a fine ranging from half a million to one million pesos. News stories in early July told the public that doctors will lobby against the approval of the House bill sponsored by Pampanga Rep.

Oscar Rodriquez that seeks to criminalize medical malpractice in view of a reported increasing number of errors committed by physicians on their patients. The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) said that if the bill is approved, it would shoot up medical expenses because doctors will become defensive in their practice of medicine that a simple case of sickness may require more than one laboratory test to prove the veracity of the results. (Today, July 3)

The issue heated up more when Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago joined in the fray and echoed the need for a new legislation that would protect the rights of persons undergoing medical treatment. He said that compared to other countries, existing laws in the Philippines have been inadequate in protecting patients from medical malpractice and negligence. (Manila Times, July 14)

As if it were not enough, another lawmaker pushed for the passage of the said bill in August, Leyte Rep. Ted Failon. Failon said that with the enactment of the bill, victims would be able to seek legal redress for medical malpractice. He added that with its passage, the medical profession will be protected from rogues and scalawags in lily-white uniforms who are turning the profession into a quack industry. (Today, August 6)

At the wake of the said events, different health workers’ organizations assailed the impending bill.

The Philippine General Hospital Physicians Association and the Philippine Nurses Association said that they are not against the rights of patients to file complaints against erring doctors but they believe that the proposed bill would only create more problems to the ailing health care system of the country. (Daily Tribune, August 11)

The Philippine Medical Association, Philippine College of Hospital Administrators and Philippine Hospital Association also expressed opposition to the bill. One group, however, the Cebu-based People’s Health Watch showed support to the measure. The said group appealed for the passage of the bill that would stop members of the medical sector from committing abuses. (Daily Tribune, August 22)

The Philippine Regulatory Commission believed that existing laws are sufficient enough to address the problem of medical malpractice. Officials over at PRC said that they accept and process malpractice cases. (PDI, August 22)

The DOH rejected the anti-malpractice act, describing it as essentially punitive. Dayrit warned that the proposed law would not actually deter the “crime of malpractice” and will instead wreak havoc in the system by resorting to defensive medicine. (Manila Times, August 23)

The Philippine College of Physicians said that any malpractice law could accelerate health care cost, undermine patient-doctor relationship, and encourage quack medicine in the country. (Philippine Star, August 28)

The Philippine Heart Association argued that the proposed bill is a big setback to local healthcare and does not guarantee the over-all safety and well being of the general population. (Manila Times, September 7)

The issue also became a favorite subject of many columnists during the third quarter of the year. Among the opinion writers who wrote their views, negative or otherwise, were PDI’s Isagani Cruz, Conrado de Quiros, Neal Cruz, and Josephus Jimenez; Philippine Star’s Domini Torrevillas; Daily Tribune’s Armando Marfil; and Manila Standard’s Emil Jurado.