KATHMANDU, Aug 15: Experts have criticized provisions of the Criminal Code 2017, pointing out that it will discourage doctors from administering care to patients with dedication and without fear. The Code is being enforced from August 17.
According to the Criminal Code 2017 (Clauses 230, 231 and 232), doctors will be liable to face jail terms of three months to life in case of negligence and carelessness resulting in the death of a patient or damage to organs.
“The Code has assumed that doctors are criminals,” said Bal Ram KC, a former justice of the Supreme Court. “Doctors have no intention of killing their patients. If they do, they are not doctors but criminals,” said KC.
KC further said that doctors may make mistakes but their mistakes should not be categorized as crimes. “Doctors will now feel fear when treating patients because of the new law,” he said. “The new code will force patients and ordinary people to remain deprived of medical treatment,” he added. “Wrongdoers should be punished through special legislation.”
Former SC justice KC recalled an incident of erroneous medical treatment in the USA about eight years ago. “Indian film star Sri Devi’s mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was taken to a hospital in New York. But surgery was performed on the left side of the brain instead of the right side. The offending doctor’s license was annulled and he was relieved from the medical profession, but he was not jailed,” KC said. “Nepal has brought in such a controversial law without any consultations with the Nepal Medical Council (NMC ), Nepal Medical Association (NMA) or individual doctors.”
Neither the government nor parliament held consultations before or after drafting the law and approving it through parliament, said KC. “Doctors have their own ethics for dealing with patients. Our new law will only force them to play it safe instead of genuinely caring for the patients.”
Dr Dhundi Raj Paudel, ethical committee member of the NMC and senior vice president of NMA, also said, “No one discussed with us about the Code. We seriously object to Clauses 230, 231, 232 and demand their amendment.” “We are not against punishing doctors as per international and medical norms. The USA has a Medical Negligence Act to bring doctors under rules and ethics,” he added.