A proposed law banning violence against doctors is closer to being tabled during this winter’s legislative session according to recent reports.
Such legislation has been a long-standing demand of the medical fraternity in India, 75 percent of whom have been the victim of violence, harassment, and/or intimidation in the workplace according to the Indian Medical Association. The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage of Property) Bill was released into the public domain by the Union Health Ministry in September after having been drafted in August.
The law would penalise those who commit acts of violence against doctors and other members of the medical workforce with a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and a three-to-ten year prison sentence. The Bill also includes provisions to penalise those who vandalise medical property, with a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh. Medical practitioners are defined by the Bill as including doctors, nurses, dentists, ambulance drivers, paramedical staff, diagnostic service providers, medical students, clinical psychologists, and organ transplant coordinators.
The violence against doctors law, according to recent reports, may be submitted for approval by the Union Cabinet before being tabled during the legislative session. The Union Health Ministry earlier assured the medical fraternity in India that it would take such steps. “We will be introducing the Bill which seeks to prohibit violence against doctors and other healthcare service personnel and damage to property of clinical establishments in the upcoming winter session,” said a senior official in the Ministry ahead of the legislative session, which commenced on November 18th.
The appetite for such legislation is raw among the medical fraternity not only in India, but worldwide. “Such violence affects profoundly health professionals in the discharge of their duty as well as their physical and moral integrity, with unavoidable consequences on the provision of healthcare and patients’ safety,” the World Medical Association said in a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Furthermore, the proliferation of such violence tends to make these acts a common occurrence, instilling mistrust against health professionals.” With the introduction of such legislation before parliamentarians potentially on the cards, one hopes that India is close to taking the requisite steps to ensure the accountability of those who harass its healthcare workforce.