The Cabinet yesterday approved amended rules related to criminal liabilities in medical procedures, to provide clearer guidance to determine physicians’ responsibility should medical disputes arise and to rationalize penalties when a physician is held responsible in a dispute.
In recent years, Taiwan has seen an increasing number of legal cases concerning medical disputes, believed to be a main reason why hospitals have difficulty retaining doctors specializing in surgery, internal medicines, gynaecology and paediatrics, and medical colleges do not have enough students enrolling in those departments.
The Cabinet approved an amendment to the Medical Care Act (醫療法) and proposed a draft act to establish a compensation system for medical injuries.
If the amendment passes the legislature, doctors would generally be protected from criminal liability unless they fail to follow up treatment according to established rules and instead perform inappropriate procedures, thus causing harm to patients.
Citing examples at a press conference following the Cabinet meeting, Department of Health Vice Minister Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said that physicians could be held criminally liable when they perform surgery on a patient’s healthy leg, or when they prescribe the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage to a patient.
Lin said an average of 36 doctors a year are charged with a criminal offence in connection with medical disputes, which is far more than in other countries.
Under the amendment, doctors would not be held criminally liable when medical problems occur because of the risks involved in certain treatments.
According to the draft act, under the proposed compensation system the government is to establish a mediation mechanism to settle medical disputes before they reach the courts.
The Department of Health is to have a fund of between NT$1 billion (US$34.39 million) and NT$1.2 billion to compensate patients when the mechanism is unable to determine whether the physicians involved were responsible for their medical problems.