A compensation ruling for a recent malpractice suit was both unreasonable and disproportionate, a health official said yesterday.
Bureau of Medical Affairs Director Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) was referring to a recent ruling by the Taiwan High Court’s Taichung Branch that a hospital and three surgeons should pay a total of NT$33.41 million (US$1.13 million) to the family of a man surnamed Chen (陳).
Chen suffered brain damage in September 2005 as a result of a traffic accident and was sent to Tungs’ Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital for emergency treatment. Surgeon Lee Ming-chung (李明鍾) and two others were later accused of not installing an intracranial pressure monitoring (ICP) system after surgery and failing to detect a delayed intracranial hematoma, errors that left Chen paralyzed and blind.
The case can still be appealed.
“This is not fair and does not conform to the principle of proportion. Even if doctors have lapses during the rescue process, if they have to pay more than the person who caused the accident, doctors wouldn’t dare save the lives of people in the future,” Shih said.
“The judicial system has distorted human values,” Shih said.
He cited media reports of drivers repeatedly backing up if they run over a person so that they can hit them again, because they know that if the victim dies, they would only have to pay compensation once, whereas if the victim was severely injured, they might have to pay compensation for the rest of the victim’s life.
Shih said that when the injured are sent to hospital, doctors provide emergency treatment in a bid to save them and might sometimes commit lapses during the process.
“One should differentiate between serious and mild lapses, but the court has indiscriminately ruled that it is negligence and has overlooked the fact that the victim’s condition was decided at the time of being hit. The perpetrators should therefore be held responsible for Chen’s condition,” he said.
“But now the court has ruled that the doctors should pay more than the perpetrator,” Shih said.
A judge should not rule that a doctor must pay more simply because he or she earns more than the person who caused the accident.
The matter should be dealt with in accordance with a sense of proportion, Shih said.
He said the bureau is now drafting an amendment to the law that would put a cap on medical compensation, which should not be higher than the amount paid by the perpetrators of a crime.
The bureau will convene a seminar at the end of the month in which it will invite judicial and medical professionals to participate.
It will take stock of practices in other countries to make its case, which it will send to judicial authorities for reference, Shih said.