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Doctors call for protection from assaults

Updated: 2013-10-31 07:43
( China Daily)

Medical workers and legal experts have called for a range of measures to respond to medical disputes after several cases of violence against doctors across the country.

Participants at a medical seminar in Guangzhou on Wednesday demanded strict enforcement of the law in doctor-patient disputes, greater promotion of medical science and unbiased media coverage of medical issues.

The law is rarely applied in dealing with doctor-patient disputes and those responsible for assaults are rarely brought to account, said Liu Mengbin, legal adviser to Guangdong Medical Doctor Association.

Authorities prefer to resort to administrative means in dealing with disputes, partly because they fear social unrest, while patients and their families are often cast as the victims in media coverage.

"This has become a habit, misleading the public and resulting in common scenes of beating, assault and trouble-making by patients at hospitals," Liu said.

While the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and three other medical associations called for zero tolerance on violence in medical settings, Chen Yunbin, a pediatrician with Guangdong Provincial Maternal and Child Care Hospital, said verbal assaults should not be tolerated either.

"I asked other doctors in my profession. All of them have been verbally attacked (by patients or their families). When such verbal attacks are threatening, which may affect a doctor's work, we should have the right to call the police. But in reality, the police only take action when physical violence has happened," Chen said.

"I strongly urge the protection of doctors' safety. Don't let them be discouraged (by the violence)."

Participants at the seminar, which was organized by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and Guangdong Medical Doctor Association, said it is important for the public to have a clear understanding of medical science.

"It is science. It is absolutely impossible to cure all diseases. It is not like consuming other products or services," said Xing Zhou, vice-president of the Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University.

He cited the epitaph of US physician Edward Livingston Trudeau: "To cure sometimes. To relieve often. To comfort always."

Those attending the seminar also pointed to some non-objective and misleading media reports on doctor-patient disputes in recent years.

"Don't denigrate doctors as a whole. The working environment is already so cruel that our foreign counterparts can hardly understand it," Xing Zhou said.

Cases of doctors being attacked by patients or their families have increased, worsened and become increasingly intolerable in recent years, said Zhang Fan, from the information department of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association.

Zhao Yunyan, director of the intensive care unit at Guangzhou TCM Hospital, said one cause of the chaotic situation is a lack of funding for public hospitals, which are asked to be run like businesses and have to source funding from pharmaceutical prescriptions.

The result is strained doctor-patient relations, she said.


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