Tue, Nov 12, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Project compensates childbirth injuries

PILOT:The government is trying to tackle the rising number of childbirth lawsuits, a phenomenon — along with the low birth rate — contributing to fewer obstetricians

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

A pilot project offering compensation for injuries sustained during childbirth initiated in October last year was the subject of heated discussion at a medical conference over the weekend.

In view of the increasing number of medical malpractice lawsuits, a bill aimed at resolving disputes and providing compensation for injuries incurred during labor has been proposed and is now before the legislature.

However, since the draft — involving numerous parties and aiming to cover all kinds of medical disputes — has taken some time to pass, the government has come under pressure from civil groups and obstetricians.

The latter’s numbers have dwindled due to the nation’s low birth rate and rising number of medical lawsuits.

Under the process, healthcare providers can file an application on condition that death or injury to a fetus, infant or pregnant woman to whom they provided medical care during the prenatal period and whose deliveries they assisted in, was not the provider’s fault, due to negligence, or that it was the patient’s fault.

Taiwan Drug Relief Foundation chairman Su Tsung-hsien (蘇聰賢), presiding over a discussion about the project at the Formosan Medical Association’s annual conference on Saturday, said that about NT$90 million (US$3 million) has been awarded for 93 approved cases. The number of birth-related lawsuits has decreased since the rollout of the project.

However, Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照) said questions remain unanswered and terms and conditions unclarified, adding that the position of the project seems to be blurred on whether “compensation” or “relief or benefits” are being offered.

Compensation for any woman injured during labor can be applied for without a review, while relief is only for those who have suffered harm in labor (to be ascertained by an appraisal committee) without medical malpractice, Huang said.

Financing the benefits is also a source of concern, Huang saying that it has not been settled whether the fund would be supported by the government, National Health Insurance, or partly shouldered by healthcare providers.

Su emphasized that the fund is currently financed by the Medical Care Development Fund, “which is mainly funded by the health surcharge imposed on tobacco.”

However, as the use of the fund and its objectives are limited, it is “not extensive enough to cover disputes of other medical divisions as the financial source of relief funds.”

While obstetricians would like to see a no-fault compensation system that would “decriminalize” physicians, Taiwan Woman’s Link director-general Huang Shu-ying (黃淑英) said it should be women-centered.

Huang proposed the fund be fully financed by the government as “it is a social mechanism for all of society to shoulder the burden of risk faced by every pregnant woman.”

She stressed that the system can be a “no-blame” one, but only if it has an effective and well-regulated “debugging mechanism” as a supporting measure to enhance patient safety and medical quality.

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