THE Health Ministry has recently enacted new regulations which rightly mandate all doctors to purchase medical defence insurance in case patients sue them.
In light of recent court findings, a major problem has arisen. Patients often sue both hospitals and doctors together, with the hospitals recently being found guilty of “vicarious liability”, meaning the courts placed added responsibility on the hospitals for granting doctors the right to practise in their premises.
This increased responsibility means hospitals have to pay out more compensation to the patient. However, hospitals are now seeking to claim this increased damages from the doctors involved. What makes the matter worse is that Medical Defence Malaysia (MDM) has officially stated that it will NOT pay or be an involved party when hospitals bring these claims to the doctor, arguing that the signed contracts between the hospital and doctors allow for the hospital to shift responsibility onto the doctor.
As senior doctors with long involvement in medical societies, we write to ask:
1. What good is a medical insurance plan if the insurer refuses to be responsible when technical legal issues arise after a patient sues both doctor and hospital?
2. Since the Health Ministry has legally made it mandatory for doctors to purchase insurance, should it not equally make it mandatory for insurance companies to live up to their responsibility when a legal suit occurs?
3. Should not hospital and doctor cooperate to practise better medicine and jointly defend themselves when faced with a legal suit instead of trying to shift blame onto the other party?
It is good to remember that ultimately we are all on the same side, seeking to heal the sick and comfort the suffering whether patients, family, doctors, hospital administrators, medical organisations or the Health Ministry. More time spent on communication and explanation so that all understand that there can be no guarantee of cure or promise of successful outcome may reduce legal cases.
And, of course, monetary incentive should never be the prime motivation of doctors or hospitals.
DR ONG HEAN TEIK
Consultant cardiologist and
Past president, Penang Medical Practitioners’ Society and
DR B. GUNASEKAREN
Consultant neurosurgeon and
Past chairman, MMA Penang Branch