Civic groups yesterday signed a petition urging legislators to slow down the pace of a review of draft legislation on medical dispute resolution and compensation to allow more discussion on the proposals, which they say are deeply flawed.
In a bid to decrease the number of medical malpractice lawsuits, the Cabinet last month approved a draft amendment to the Medical Care Act (醫療法) that would diminish the penalties medical personnel face in legal disputes, as well as a draft act that would see disputes mediated at local health departments before going to court.
As the draft legislation proposed by the Cabinet and several revised versions proposed by legislators are now being reviewed at the Legislative Yuan, physicians, academics and civic groups urged legislators to take more time to clarify the issue.
The organizations represented were the Taiwan Health Reform Foundation, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance, the Taiwan Labour Front, the Taiwan Women’s Alliance, the Alliance for Old People’s Welfare Promotion, the Family Caregiver Association and the League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled.
The groups said that while the intention to reduce medical disputes that lead to lawsuits was understandable, the government should consider the comprehensiveness, fairness and effectiveness of a new mechanism.
Inspection methods, the quality of the mediation personnel, and compensation procedures and methods are all interlinked, and hence should be carefully discussed with different sectors of society to reach a consensus that protects the rights of both patients and medical personnel, they said.
Eva Teng (滕西華), a spokeswoman for the National Health Insurance Civic Surveillance Alliance, said civic groups hope that the draft act can improve the relationship between medical facilities and patients. However, the Cabinet’s proposal was announced less than a month ago and has not been discussed by all relevant sectors.
Andrew Huang (黃達夫), president of the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-sen Cancer Center, said specialized medical inspection facilities should be established, or it would still be difficult to discern the truth in a medical dispute, which would render mediation and responsibility ascription unachievable.
Academia Sinica associate research professor Chiou Wen-tsong (邱文聰) said that “without knowing the truth, mediation and compensation will only become what people call ‘rubbing rice balls’ (搓湯圓, a term used to describe the exchange of benefits to make stakeholders back out), designed to make patients drop their complaints.”
The groups urged legislators to hold public hearings on the issue to gather more feedback and also to postpone the review process until the next legislative session.