Wed, Feb 20, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Childbirth accident relief program effective: report

LESS FEAR:The mechanism requires hospitals to give an explanation within two days of an accident, which one doctor cited for improving doctor-patient relationships

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A childbirth accident relief mechanism has improved doctor-patient relationships and reduced litigation on childbirth-related medical disputes by about 60 percent, a Ministry of Health and Welfare report published on Monday showed.

The ministry in 2012 launched a pilot program encouraging healthcare facilities to handle disputes associated with childbirth accidents and the Legislative Yuan in December 2015 passed the Childbirth Accident Emergency Relief Act (生產事故救濟條例), which went into effect on June 30, 2016.

Taiwan is the first Asian nation to enact a specialized law for handling childbirth accidents and is one of the few nations in the world that has established a no-fault compensation system for all types of childbirth accidents.

The act stipulates that the government is to provide a maximum of NT$2 million (US$64,838) in relief for each case of moderate or severe disability or death of a pregnant woman, fetus or newborn that occurs during childbirth, but families that apply for the relief program may not file a lawsuit.

The first annual report on implementation of the act showed that 427 cases, or 86.4 percent, of 494 relief applications during the pilot were approved, with a total of NT$41.55 million in relief disbursed.

A total of 286 applications were received after the act went into effect, with 282 cases, or 98.6 percent, approved and NT$13.08 million in relief disbursed before the end of 2017, it showed.

The mechanism allows healthcare practitioners to be more willing to explain situations to patients and their families, as well as help them apply for relief, so it has reduced the number of childbirth-related medical disputes, Department of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said.

Instituting the act also helped the government discover systematic errors and learn from each serious childbirth accident to improve and prevent or reduce the harm from such accidents, he said, adding that improved doctor-patient relationships have also motived more medical school graduates to become obstetricians.

Litigation on childbirth-related medical disputes in 2017 fell by about 60 percent from 2011, Shih said, adding that the recruitment rate of resident doctors in obstetrics and gynecology departments increased from about 60 percent in 2010 to 100 percent in 2017.

The most significant effect of the mechanism has been improving doctor-patient relationships, as hospitals are required to explain the situation to patients and their families within two days of an accident, Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Min-chao (黃閔照) said.

There are several unpredictable risks in childbirth and doctors in the past might have had concerns about explaining accidents due to the fear that what they said could be admitting medical negligence or malpractice, and that their explanation could be used as evidence against them in lawsuits, Huang said, adding that the mechanism has motivated hospitals to communicate with patients and their families first.

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