The Taiwan Health Reform Foundation (THRF) yesterday said there were four major problems that patients often meet in medical malpractice disputes, and urged that the mechanism for dealing with medical disputes be codified to solve the problems.
The four major problems are “difficult to obtain critical evidence, many traps within negotiations, no access to consultation and investigation and asymmetric professional information,” the foundation said, saying that the problems were revealed by patients or their family members through their complaints to the foundation over the past year.
It called for legislators not to be so fast to amend the Medical Care Act (醫療法) to protect doctors from punishment or to raise the threshold required for patients to file lawsuits over medical disputes, saying they should try to understand people’s difficulties first, as well as amend the laws to include a proper medical dispute resolution mechanism.
Foundation executive director Joanne Liu (劉淑瓊) said the foundation has received on average more than 400 medical dispute complaints a year over the past 11 years, and according to a researcher’s estimate, there are more than 18,000 people involved in medical disputes each year that do not know how to exercise their rights.
Between 20 percent and 30 percent of the 53 people who asked for the foundation’s assistance said they had difficulties applying for medical records, and about 60 percent said they thought the medical records they received were incomplete or altered, Liu said.
Many hospitals lack dispute resolution procedures for negotiations or filing complaints, and “some hospitals use the method of stalling for time, using various excuses, and sometimes even run out the six-month time limit for filing complaints,” she added.
She said a survey done by the Bureau of Health Promotion this year showed that only 14 percent of respondents knew how and where to file complaints when a medical dispute occurs, and about 60 percent said their complaints to the hospital were unresolved.
In addition, the foundation’s survey showed that many people demanded only an apology and the truth, and up to 98 percent of respondents said that what they needed the most was professional consultation and investigation to clarify the problem. Liu said that at present, many people had no choice but to file a lawsuit to receive professional investigation commissioned by the court.
Up to 94 percent of respondents said that they hoped the government could assist them with administrative investigations, she added.
In response, Department of Health official Hsu Ming-neng (許銘能) said that the proposal to amend the act was not meant to waive the criminal liability of doctors, but to make the punishment on doctors more reasonable so that they are made responsible only for severe or deliberate negligence.
“As for the patients, the department has drafted an act for medical dispute resolutions and medical dispute compensation, and sent it to the Executive Yuan for review,” he said, adding that it was likely to be sent for legislative review in the coming month.