KATHMANDU, August 18: Following implementation of the Criminal Code 2017 from Friday, emergency patients will suffer further as doctors have decided to play it safe and protect themselves rather than treat patients without any fear.
The Code has provisioned three to five years in prison for the doctor or a fine of Rs 30,000 or both if a patient dies because of doctor's negligence and carelessness in the course of the treatment. A doctor will be arrested if a complaint is filed accusing him or her of negligence in treatment.
Doctors are inclined to be on the defensive and err on the side of caution rather than examine the patients with confidence, said the doctors at Kanti Children's Hospital, the only state-owned children's hospital of the country. "We cannot assure everyone that we will save him from death but we will treat everyone to get well," they said.
"We have no choice but to refer them to another hospital because of the new law under which doctors can be accused of killing patients," said Dr Ganesh Kumar Rai, director at Kanti Children's . "We will now refer the serious cases to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital," he added.
It will be a serious matter if every hospital and every doctor refers serious or critical cases to other hospitals when what is required is prompt treatment. A patient can die in the course of being shifted between hospitals. What will happen if everyone refers patients somewhere else?, doctors questioned. Most of the emergency patients may die even though they have chances of surviving through timely treatment.
"Definitely, emergency patients will be the most affected because of the impact of the new code," said Dr Dhundi Raj Paudel, senior vice president of Nepal Medical Association (NMA) and ethical committee member of the Nepal Medical Council. "We have to go on the defensive because of this impractical law," he added.
NMA, the professional organization of doctors, has meanwhile postponed its protest for 15 days. The protest was to have begun from August 17. NMA announced on August 13 that its doctors were going to stop seeing patients and they would hand in their licenses and their aprons to the NMC.
NMA has issued an ultimatum of 15 days to the government to amend the new rules. It will begin its protest after that if the government ignores their demands, according to NMA officials.
NMA has demanded immediate amendment of the Criminal Code 2017 , saying it has categorized doctors as criminals. There are over 21,000 doctors registered with NMC.
NMA had earlier threatened not to attend to patients from August 17 onwards