Parliamentary Panel recommends legal protections for healthcare workers

Healthcare Professionals Face Increased Violence

In a concerning development, healthcare professionals find themselves vulnerable to “violent attacks” from relatives of patients, particularly in cases where patients die during treatment. This issue has prompted a parliamentary panel to consider the introduction of legal safeguards to protect these essential workers. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, led by BJP member Brij Lal, has delved into the matter as they examined proposed criminal laws and discussed memoranda submitted by various medical associations. These associations have urged the introduction of provisions under Clause 115 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) to penalize acts of violence against healthcare service personnel.

Vulnerability of Healthcare Professionals

The committee’s report underscored the unique vulnerability of healthcare professionals, stating that they are often subjected to “violent attacks” by relatives of patients, particularly in cases where patients pass away during the course of their treatment. This vulnerability is an issue prevalent throughout the country, prompting medical associations to emphasize the need for legal safeguards to protect the well-being of healthcare workers.

Government’s Response and Proposed Measures

In response to these concerns, the Union Home Ministry emphasized the equal applicability of general penal provisions to all individuals, reiterating the principle of equality before the law. Furthermore, the Ministry stressed the state’s duty to protect the lives of all citizens, including professionals such as doctors, media personnel, advocates, bankers, and chartered accountants. The introduction of specific provisions for doctors and other healthcare professionals raised concerns about similar demands arising from other professional groups. However, the Union Home Ministry informed the committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s proposal to introduce a ‘Medical Professionals Act’ aimed at providing safeguards for healthcare workers against violent attacks. It was also stated that the Home Ministry would seek updates from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on this matter.

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Committee’s Recommendation and Legislative Developments

After careful consideration of the concerns expressed by healthcare personnel, the committee expressed its opinion that the government should explore the implementation of appropriate legal safeguards for healthcare workers. The committee highlighted Clause 115 of the BNS, which outlines penalties for causing grievous hurt, as part of the legislative framework to address this issue. Additionally, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS-2023) bill, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS-2023) bill, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA-2023) bill were introduced in the Lok Sabha, signaling a potential shift in legislative measures to replace existing criminal procedure, penal, and evidence acts.

The potential implementation of legal safeguards for healthcare workers is a significant step towards addressing the prevalent issue of violence against these essential personnel. As discussions and legislative developments continue, it is imperative to prioritize the safety and well-being of healthcare professionals as they continue to provide vital services to the community.

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