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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES: A POLICY ISSUE

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES: A POLICY ISSUE


MEDICAL MALPRACTICE IN THE PHILIPPINES: A POLICY ISSUE. PATIENT’S RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS AND IMPOSING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS: A POLICY ISSUE IN THE PHILIPPINES


There is a need for a law that will protect, promote and defend the rights of patients. Data from the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) indicates (per PRC Board of Medicine August 2002 data, there are 585 docketed cases with 176 malpractice or gross negligence cases) that over a hundred have been reported to them as early as 1993. The Center for People’s Health Watch, a Cebu-based non-governmental organization has documented 53 cases of medical malpractice from 1992 to 1996 in Visayas alone. Given that a doctor sees at least 10 patients daily five times a week, the number of people who are put to risk is sizeable.

Even more disturbing, these numbers are only based on hospital statistics. They do not include deaths from missed diagnoses or medical negligence that occurred in clinics, private doctors' offices, or other treatment facilities. Yet there are still undocumented cases where patients and their families simply accept with resignation the medical tragedy they find themselves in. And the public has to be protected. Even the poorest jeepney owner/operator cannot have his vehicle registered unless he has insurance that spells third party liability. And they earn much less than the lowliest paid licensed physician. We should not equate this as a punishment but simply a means for equalizing the distribution of pecuniary liability.

The number of filed complaints, however, indicates a low incidence ratio. Just because statistics show that there is only one maimed or lost life for every three million patients is no justification for the people to be less bothered. 

From the plaintiff’s perspective, there are three reasons to sue the physician for malpractice. First, filing a lawsuit is a way to secure compensation for the injury. victims no doubt has some uninsured costs associated with injury; compensate the family for the loss of work related services, and recompense victim’s and her family’s suffering. Second, suing the physician may provide a sense of corrective justice. An injured party is “made whole” through restitution from the injurer. Provoking feelings of remorse, shame, and guilt in the defendant is an integral part of this corrective justice. Finally, tort litigation is meant to have a deterrence function. By forcing the negligent party to pay a penalty, the system creates an economic incentive to take greater precautions in the future. Presumably, being sued will cause physicians to approach patients differently in the future.

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