Legislation, the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, has been drafted by the Union Health Ministry and made publicly available for comment, addressing violence against doctors and vandalism of healthcare facilities. Under the law, offenders could be jailed for up to ten years and fined up to Rs 10 lakh. In the meantime, the IMA has expressed a desire for an ordinance to come into force until such a law is brought.
“[The] IMA requests the government of India to bring out the law as an ordinance in this regard immediately,” it said in its letter to the Prime Minister, also requesting that the issue be brought to public attention during his next Mann ki Baat radio address. “Violence on doctors and hospitals is a complex phenomenon and will require multi-dimensional institutional response.”
The recent murder of a doctor in Assam – which triggered strike action by medicos in the state – served as the impetus behind the IMA’s letter, as it reflects the urgency of a law to address such attacks which are commonplace in India. 75 percent of Indian doctors have been the victim of abuse in the workplace, according to the IMA.
The World Medical Association (WMA) has taken cognisance of the crisis of violence against doctors in India, writing to the Prime Minister and Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan concerning it. “Such violence affects profoundly health professionals in the discharge of their duty as well as their physical and moral integrity, with unavoidable consequences on the provision of healthcare and patients’ safety,” said the WMA. “Furthermore, the proliferation of such violence tends to make these acts a common occurrence, instilling mistrust against health professionals.”