While the Ministry of Health tries to address the issue of medical malpractice, which is now preoccupying the Jordanian street health, legal and social experts are calling for the activation of the medical accountability law, in cooperation with partners in the medical sector and health unions, and for finding solutions that ensure respect for the rights of patients, doctors, hospitals and all health system actors within clear and equitable mechanisms.
Experts’ calls for hospitals and medical centers be provided with sufficient cadres to be able to carry out their work, as well as for training programs before the new cadres starting work, particularly considering that there are more than 300 cases of medical malpractice before the judiciary, based on the Medical Accountability Law that was passed in 2018.
These experts’ calls came during the consultative session hosted by the Forum for Supporting the Justice Sector, held on October 10 under the title “Medical Accountability and Legal Protection Frameworks: Reality and Aspirations”. The session, moderated by Dr. Sawsan Al-Majali, JONAF Steering Committee member and senior advisor at Durrat Al-Manal, was attended by the former minister of health, Dr. Ali Al-Hiyasat, the former vice president of the Court of Cassation, Dr. Muhammad Al-Tarawneh, President of the Jordanian Ambulance Association Dr. Yanal Al-Ajlouni and Secretary-General of the Health Coalition for Patient Protection Dr. Fadia Samara.
Al-Majali stressed that the issue of medical malpractice is of special importance, since it may occur on a daily basis, adding that the Medical Accountability Law remained in the government’s drawers for about 12 years, inactive until 2018. She said that medical errors may happen anywhere in the world, and health institutions in all countries seek to reduce the number of medical errors, but the matter requires effort, follow-up and awareness.
ARDD Executive Director Samar Muhareb said that dialogues such as this ” will continue as part of the efforts exerted by the Justice Forum, which seeks to make sure that this important issue and the right to obtain treatment and protection from medical errors are among the priorities of work in the social welfare file,” stressing its intersection with the legal file, because of the role of the justice sector in safeguarding the fundamental human right of not having to suffer from negligence, imbalance and exclusion of some segments of society, such as refugees and the elderly, who do not have suitable health insurance, if at all.
Dr. Hiyasat said that “the law protects and preserves the rights of the patient, the doctor, and the institutions who treat patients drawing attention, in this context, to the difference between medical complications and medical errors. As such, “it is the patient’s right to know if he was exposed to a medical error or a medical complication,” he said, adding that “the doctor is not a guarantor of the patient’s treatment, as this matter is left to the Divine Providence” noting that the Medical Accountability Law ensures that an impartial technical committee determines whether a medical error was committed, thus ensuring that both patient’s and doctor’s rights are respected which means recognizing the patient’s right and at the same time not leaving the doctor.
Dr. Hiyasat also said that if a medical error actually occurred, the responsibility does not fall squarely on the particular doctor, as there are nurses, anesthesiologists and radiology laboratories that may have contributed to the error, stressing that the law should not to be a sword hanging Al-Ajlouni said that one of the challenges facing us is the absence of standardized terminology and practices in the sector, and weak administrations, which makes the doctor feel uncomfortable about medical accountability, considering that whoever works makes mistakes and whoever deliberately neglects his work must be held accountable. He also said that the issue of doctors’ qualification has not been taken into account and responsibility until this moment, and that there is a slack in the public and private sectors about the quality.
Al-Tarawneh said: “Jordan has a good reputation with regard to the issue of the judiciary, but the Medical Accountability Law was timidly laid down and needs greater activation,” noting that a doctor is required to take care and not revive the patient. He criticized the lack of a public prosecutor specialized in medical accountability, pointing out that many countries preceded Jordan in introducing laws related to this matter, and securing criminal, civil and legal accountability. According to Al-Tarawneh, some legal texts restrict the judge, which leads to delays in litigation procedures; he proposed establishing a court specialized in medical matters and for a clear criminal accountability law that achieves the goal.
Samara stressed the need for a health coalition to protect both patients and doctors, and for a deterrent law against those who practice negligence in medical work, to protect human life and patients’ rights, adding that there is a significant shortage of equipment and medical staff in public hospitals. She said in her view the health system continues its decline, so it needs a boost, make the patient the focus, and accelerate the litigation process in cases of medical errors to ensure justice for patients, and stressed the importance of allocating sufficient funds for training doctors and nurses.
ARDD lawyer Amjad Bani Hani reviewed problems related to the health sector, highlighting the hospitals practice of withholding patients’ personal papers to ensure that they pay their financial dues, one of the most prominent problems to have emerged recently, indicating that this matter is illegal according to Article 10 of the Civil Status Law, and poses a special dilemma for refugees.
He recommended that hospitals issue a circular to the health departments in the Kingdom to prevent the confiscation of official documents, resort to legal means and the pertinent enforcement departments and law in case of default, enable patients to pay in installments the amounts due, and apply the rule of law, adding that ARDD dealt through its branches established in eight governorates, with 611 cases of problems in the health sector.
The participants stressed the need to hold more meetings concerned with health protection, which intersect with legal issue and the humanitarian response file for citizens and refugees, and emphasized the role of the Parliament of Jordan and the House of Representatives in following up and updating the Medical Accountability Law, the need to educate citizens and doctors about legal procedures to ensure the protection of their rights, and the importance of the civil society support for the health sector.