Most attacks on doctors by patients’ kin go unpunished

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MUMBAI: Most attacks on doctors and medical staff by relatives of patients go unpunished. There have not been arrests in most cases of vandalism in hospitals and assaults on doctors.

Last June, St George Hospital’s ICU was ransacked by relatives of a deceased patient for alleged indifference by doctors. Last February, a nurse was hit by a patient’s wife at KEM hospital when she informed her that the patient had died. In both cases, no arrests were made, even though nursing staff at KEM had protested.

In cases where arrests were made, assailants got bail a day later. In July 2011, a doctor was abused and her husband, also a doctor, was assaulted by kin of a nine-year-old boy at K B Bhabha hospital in Bandra. The family argued when the lady doctor did not allow all relatives at once into the ICU.

By evening, the boy, who suffered from septicaemia, died, which infuriated the family and they charged into the ICU and assaulted doctors. Though the police arrested the assailants two days later, they were let off on bail.

In January 2011, a woman resident doctor, on duty in the casualty ward of Sion hospital, was abused and pushed by a patient’s relatives.

The doctors had said the relatives also almost beat up a junior resident doctor and created a ruckus in the ward when doctors refused to admit the patient for abdominal pain. The police had caught the assailants and made them apologize to the doctors, but no arrests were made.

While the relatives are driven by emotions, doctors have become soft targets. Experts said the assailants should not be let scot-free, as it sends a wrong message.

Former Thane commissioner S P S Yadav said the police have to take action keeping the sensitivity of the issue in mind. “According to an amendment in the law, culprits are liable for cognizable and non-bailable offences. Relatives in such times have lost a dear one, and thus the police do not arrest them immediately.”

Dr Arun Bal, ex-editor of Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, said, “Public hospitals have such a heavy load that they find it difficult to manage patients. At such times, there is nobody around who can explain to relatives the course of treatment or sensitivity of the disease. Thus, relatives get agitated. However, they must understand that doctors do everything to save patients.”

The only solution in such cases, said Dr Bal, was to keep counselors in hospitals, who can guide patients and their relatives.

The soft approach to people who target hospitals and health workers encourages potential assailants. A no-nonsense attitudestarting with the use of stringent sections of the law and ending with convictions in court-is needed to send out a strong signal. A knee-jerk response to every case of assault needs to be replaced by a long-term policy that will also look at the dysfunctional public health sector, which may be the root cause of many of these attacks.

Courtesy – The Times of India

Pratibha Masand| TNN | Feb 1, 2013, 01.13 AM IST

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Link – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Most-attacks-on-doctors-by-patients-kin-go-unpunished/articleshow/18280431.cms

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