Medical Accountability Law inches into implementation

ministry of health
(Photo: JNews)
AMMAN — The Medical and Health Accountability Law will have a “qualitative impact” on improving medical services and boosting medical tourism, said Minister of Health Firas Hawari in an official press statement. اضافة اعلان

According to the law, approved late in 2018, medical negligence occurs when medical service providers “are involved in an act or omission, which does not correspond to the standard professional rules, resulting in harm to the patient.”

“I think the law should provide justice for both, for the patients and for the healthcare provider, as a doctor or nurse or any medical professional,” said Dr Tariq Khatib, a rehabilitation specialist, in an interview with Jordan News. He explained that, “We as doctors are not against the medical accountability law: The opposite, we are encouraging it to be implemented.” However, successful implementation of the law requires rigorous guidelines and protocols, according to Khatib. He pointed out that different regions and sectors in Jordan have access to different resources, but are judged by the same standards through the accountability law.

Research on medical malpractice in Jordan is limited. A 2008 study by faculty at the Hashemite University examined nurses’ perceptions of medication errors and found that medication errors are both underreported and widespread. According to the statement, 220 medical complaints have been referred to the panel under the medical accountability law.

Harawi’s statement came as he spoke at a ceremony to swear in members of “specialized legal subcommittees” as part of the law. The subcommittees consist of 39 medical and health experts; medical malpractice cases referred to the committee will be handled in a “confidential, objective, and participatory manner before decisions are taken.”

Abdul Hadi Breizat, head of the Higher Technical Committee, told Jordan News that with “the proper implementation of the law and continuous monitoring and auditing with making necessary amendments on due time,” the law will have its intended effect of improving medical services and boosting medical tourism. Medical tourism is an important source of income for the Kingdom, contributing $1 billion annually, or 3.5 percent of the national GDP. Many medical tourists come from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Similarly, Khatib said that he agrees that the law will improve Jordan’s medical services and benefit medical tourism. But he also outlined a potential problem in Jordanians’ misunderstanding of medical malpractice. “There is a misunderstanding in our population between the medical error and the complications that may happen after any procedure or any medical intervention” even if there is no error, he explained.

Despite the purported importance of the law, several medical students told Jordan News that they have received little or no formal education about medical accountability and liability and the accountability law. Tarek Haddad, a sixth-year medical student at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), said that he had not heard anything about the law. He explained that students at JUST take a “very brief” ethics course during the second year “which vaguely covers the principles and the issues of medical accountability.” “As medical students, we are not directly taught any substantial lessons regarding this subject,” he said. He mentioned that some doctors while teaching warned of certain shortcuts or “missed details” that could lead to a doctor’s liability, but that they refrained from discussing legal repercussions altogether.

Haddad said that as an aspiring surgeon, he felt some concern about facing medical liability in his aspiring career. “But I find that as long as treatment protocols and hospital regulations are clear, and as long as I pay the due diligence for each patient, my conscience and my hands would be clear and clean,” he concluded.

Likewise, Aya Masadeh, a medical student at the University of Jordan, said that “We don’t actually learn much about (medical liability) so I am personally not very aware of the exact law that concerns medical liability here in Jordan.” She pointed out that “as future health practitioners we are expected to meet very high standards of care so with it comes with a lot of responsibility and everyone is prone to making errors. However, in Jordan, the law usually sides with the medical sector so in case of any negligence claims we are sort of protected.” She went on: “This in a way makes sure that doctors are not afraid to operate even with the presence of risks.”

Saba Al-Massimi, a medical student at the University of Jordan said that she only learned about medical accountability “briefly”, which she found concerning, “especially (because) I have seen that it is an issue of great concern in other countries.”

The law prohibits a number of actions, including treating a patient without his/her consent except in emergency situations, failing to provide services in emergency situations, using unauthorized diagnostic means or medicines, diagnosing patients before examining them, disclosing a patient’s confidential information, sex change surgeries, and human cloning. The law also places some restrictions on fertility procedures.

Read more national news