The Union Health Ministry has assured the Indian medical fraternity that it will advocate for stringent punishment of violence against doctors in the forthcoming legislative winter session in the Lok Sabha, commencing Monday.
The issue of violence against doctors is a national issue, with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) reporting that 75 percent of doctors in India have been the subject of violence, intimidation, and/or harassment whilst on duty. Numerous instances of strike action have been prompted by violence against doctors this year.
Earlier this year, legislation was drafted by the Government of India which imposed a punishment of violence against doctors and other medical professionals of three to ten years in jail and a Rs 2-10 lakh fine. At the time, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan acknowledged the draft law to be “a long-standing demand of the medical fraternity.” The law was released into the public domain in September. In the interim, the IMA called for an ordinance to be brought.
Violence against doctors has been in the crosshairs of numerous influential bodies. The World Medical Association (WMA) wrote to both Vardhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year, asserting that “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. Furthermore, the proliferation of such violence tends to make these acts a common occurrence, instilling mistrust against health professionals.” The Supreme Court, too, has taken cognisance of the matter.
With the commencement of the winter session of the Lok Sabha imminent, the Union Health Ministry has assured the medical fraternity that punishment of violence against doctors will be on its agenda. “We will be introducing the bill which seeks to prohibit violence against doctors and other healthcare service personnel and damage to property of clinical establishments in the upcoming winter session,” said a senior official within the Ministry.
The WMA has noted an increase in violence against medicos globally. “Violence has become a significant public health challenge. Attacks on healthcare facilities, healthcare personnel, and the sick and wounded are in direct breach of medical ethics, international humanitarian and human rights laws,” said WMA President Dr Miguel Jorge. “We are proposing a series of measures, including the provision of security posts and efficient surveillance in all healthcare facilities. It is time that governments demonstrated their political commitment to tackle the shame of violence on our health services.”