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French Version

JDA disputes medical accountability draft law

Last week’s government announcement of a new draft law targeting medical negligence and mistakes in Jordan was rejected outright by the Jordanian Doctors Association (JDA). The draft law consists of four main axes: Updating doctors on the latest techniques and advancement in medicine; quality control and monitoring of the medical services; proper measures to deal with complaints against doctors; compensation guarantees against medical technical errors.

Doctors believe that medical errors occur inadvertently. However, Jordanians still remember the case of Ohoud Qteishat who died three years ago because of medical error during childbirth. A Jordanian court recently ordered the hospital and the nurse involved in the case to pay JD 50,000 to Ohoud’s family, while the doctor was cleared. This case stimulated the government to highlight the need for a medical accountability law in Jordan. The recent increasing demand to prosecute the culprits implicated in medical negligence or error cases reflects the people’s impatience with the laissez-faire attitude prevalent until now. Until recently, such events were regarded as God’s will. However, today the more these cases arise from medical mistakes resulting in death the louder the call for criminal investigation resonates.

Ohoud was not the first to die of a medical error, and unlikely to be the last. JDA’s President, Mohammad Oran leads the Association’s rejection of the said draft law, saying that the current JDA’s regulations settle this issue in detail, and any further discussions should take place within this framework.

“Medical investigation is mentioned in the JDA’s regulations. Any discussion in that regard must mull over efforts to stimulate the regulations that entail the medical investigation in Jordan,” said Oran, who recently headed an extraordinary meeting for the JDA’s Medical Inquiry Committee, which rejected the government’s efforts. Causes of medical mistakes may arise from the health practitioner, specialist, hospital administration, nursing staff, pharmacists, pathology labs, and pharmaceutical companies, among others. Medical mistakes could be due to surgical procedures, diagnosis, negligence, or medication. Although practitioners in general believe that 75 percent of the cases are preventable, they regard surgical errors as “the most complicated and avoidable”.

JDA board member, Ahmad Armouti, believes however that the draft law is a positive step for the medical sector in the Kingdom. He said that such a law would serve the JDA’s intentions and help to raise public awareness over the issue. “There is a general feeling that medical mistakes are common in Jordan, and that doctors who commit them are often acquitted,” Armouti explained. He said the law must stipulate guidelines and standards for accountability. “

I ask the government and JDA to work together to make the law a reality to preserve the stature and image of the Jordanian medical expertise both regionally and internationally,” Armouti said. Ex-Minister of Health, Ishaq Maraqa agreed with Armouti, and said, “The law must be drawn by a team of experts both in the fields of law and medicine.”

Maraqa told The Star that the law, once approved, should entail “efficient legal backgrounds that conform to the medical principles and ethics”. “It is illogic to take a doctor accused of committing a fatal mistake to a criminal law court,” said Maraqa, who called on the government to take examples from world countries, notably the US and Europe, where medical investigations are often carried out. He criticized the Ministry of Health for its lack of statistics on medical mistakes in Jordan, and said that some of the private hospitals keep account of medical mistakes once they are committed. He took the Islamic Hospital in Amman as an example, which holds weekly meetings for staff and surgeons to deliberate on whether medical mistakes have been committed. Employing the criminal judicial system to sue doctors who make mistakes remains questionable, especially among the JDA which regards such an idea as “unacceptable”. “The current debate over the draft law would adversely affect public trust in the local medical sector if both the government and JDA failed to reach agreement,” said Dr Zuhair Abu Faris, head of the Private Sector Committee at the JDA. He rejects the medical inquiry law for being “inappropriate”.

He accused the insurance companies of whipping up “public emotions against doctors and medical institutions in Jordan”. Maraqa meanwhile contended that the law must include articles that regulate the affair between doctors and patients. Such articles, he said, should entail regulations requesting surgeons to inform their patients of side effects that may arise due to medications prescribed. Columnist Nabil Gheishan believes the JDA is committing a grave mistake by rejecting the government’s proposed medical Accountability Law. “

We are not after doctors and surgeons in Jordan, but want to ensure the right of those who suffered medical errors. The relationship between the JDA and the public must be regulated by law so as to preserve the rights of both sides,” Gheishan, who is an activist on this topic, told The Star. He said that Jordanians have reported tens of cases to the JDA against doctors who committed medical mistakes; but these cases were never resolved. “The JDA would not side against its members in disputes regarding medical mistakes, and this requires an independent arbitrator to take the responsibility of applying the law,” he said. Gheishan said the only way to solve disputes arising from medical errors is through lawsuits. “Medical accountability is a two-edged weapon,” said Dr Isaam Saket from the private sector who confirmed “that good intentions, good training and good facilities, lead automatically to good results”. He stated that medical errors occur in Jordan just like any other country and confided, “ Based on studies and statistics, Jordan is a country with the least medical errors, for Jordan had gained an excellent reputation for its medical services throughout the years, a credit I would like to stress on.”

Yet he affirmed that medical accountability should be based on fairness without being a tool to target doctors or a way to escape medical fees.” Dr Isaam believes that medical accountability is a responsibility that touches all those involved in the medical profession: Doctors, nurses, medical equipment, and hospitals. They all form a chain; if one of its rings gets weak the chain would break at the slightest tug.

Amman,29November2004
Ghassan Joha
The Star


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