Thu, 20 Nov 2003

NGOs say new bill on medical services to protect doctors

2Dewi Santoso, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A bill on medical services would allow patients to sue doctors for malpractice, but a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said on Wednesday the draft law protected doctors rather than patients.

The bill says patients who are disadvantaged by medical workers can sue them through the Indonesian Medical Council (KKI), which will determine if a case should be regarded as negligence, accident or malpractice.

According to article 91 (2) of the bill, patients can sue doctors for, among other things, negligence due to a lack of professional knowledge and competence, failure to act in accordance with medical standards and violations of medical standards.

"With this bill, patients will be protected from improper services provided by doctors," the deputy chairman of House of Representatives Commission VII, Sanoesi Tambunan, said.

The Indonesian Medical Council will comprise 25 members, 15 of them doctors, four representatives of the Ministry of Health, four representatives of the Ministry of National Education and two representatives of the general public.

But a coalition of six NGOs, including the Indonesian Health Consumers Empowerment Foundation (YPKKI) and the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), called on the public to reject the bill, saying the draft law was proposed to protect doctors from lawsuits.

"The fact that the only people who can find doctors guilty are their own peers will result in a conflict of interest. No doctors will be willing to testify against their peers, because they will seek to protect their own," the coalition said.

The coalition said that patients were in a disadvantageous position because they had no solid basis to sue doctors, due to an absence of medical service standards.

"All cases have been regarded as accidents so far as the country has no standard for medical services," the coalition said.

The NGOs also criticized what they called lenient penalties to be imposed on doctors found guilty of violating the professional code spelled out in the bill. The penalties, they said, did not match the losses suffered by patients.

They said the country was in need of a regulation on medical services instead of a bill on the medical practice in order to protect both patients and the rights of doctors.

"We don't even have the regulations to implement Law No. 23/1992 on health, particularly much-needed government regulations on medical standards," the coalition said.

Key articles:

Article 91: Patients can sue doctors for, among other things, negligence due to a lack of professional knowledge and competence, failure to comply with the standards of the medical profession and violations of the standards of the medical profession, drug addiction, obscenity, discriminatory treatment, refusal to provide services for unacceptable reasons, conducting abortions without a solid medical basis and opening illegal medical clinics.

Article 92: Complaints must be filed two years at the latest after a medical action is performed.

Article 136 (9): Sanctions can be in the form of the revocation of medical licenses or assignment letters for up to one year, and compulsory education in medical school.

Source: Bill on the medical practice