Protesting the violence against doctors, the Indian Medical Association has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighting the need to enact a Central law to check violence against health professionals. They urged to issue an ordinance in this regard.

The move comes a few days after a doctor at a tea garden in Assam was deadly assaulted by a mob. The IMA, which is the largest body of doctors and students in the country with around three lakh members, stated that it is impossible to provide quality treatment to the public in an atmosphere of fear and violence.

It also sent a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting to highlight the issue in his monthly radio address to the nation ‘Mann Ki Baat.” Supporting the IMA, the World Medical Association (WMA), a global federation of physicians, has also written to Prime Minister and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan expressing concern over increasing incidents of violence against health professionals in India.

An initiative in this regard has been taken by the Health Ministry which has drafted the Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 seeking to punish people who assault on-duty doctors. As per the Bill, people found guilty under it will be fined Rs. 10 lakh or will be given imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Seeking feedback from the public, the draft legislation has been put in the public domain. WMA in an open letter referring to the death of Dr. Deben Dutta in Assam said, “The news is a matter of great concern to us, reflecting the increasing trend of violence against health professionals in India”.

“They can be deliberate targets of violence and used as scapegoat, such as in the case of Dr. Dutta. Such violence affects profoundly health professionals in the discharge of their duty as well as their physical and moral integrity, with unavoidable consequences on the provision of healthcare and patients’ safety.”

“Furthermore, the proliferation of such violence tends to make these acts a common occurrence, instilling mistrust against health professionals,” the WMA said in the letter.

“The WMA has been particularly active on these matters over the last decade and stands firm behind its medical associations” members to protest against any form of violence,” it added.

The letter further reads, “IMA requests the government of India to bring out the law as an ordinance in this regard immediately,” it said while asserting that a law for deterrence alone might not have the desired impact as “violence on doctors and hospitals is a complex phenomenon and will require multi-dimensional institutional response”.

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