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Physicians hit street to demand special law for medical accidents
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2019.07.22 18:27
  • Updated 2019.07.22 21:15
  • comments 0
About 400 physicians protested against a court ruling, holding pickets that said, “How can the court arrest doctors for uncontrollable medical accidents?” and “Guarantee medical practice based on conviction through state compensation for accident-free services,” during a rally to “denounce the arrest of an obstetrician,” in Seoul Railway Station Plaza on Saturday.

Hundreds of obstetricians hit the street. The outdoor rally occurred after an ob-gyn had been punished for driving a woman to death while giving birth to a stillborn child by induced delivery. Protestors called it a medical accident beyond control and complained about the injustice of the court ruling.

About 400 ob-gyns and other physicians took part in the “rally to denounce the arrest of an obstetrician,” jointly organized by three related groups – the Korea Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Korean Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. The participants wearing vinyl slickers in the cloudy weather chanted, “Ob-gyns are about to perish because of unjust court rulings that mass-produce convicts. The judiciary branch should wake up.”

If judges continue to making rulings by the results of medical care, doctors will tend to avoid risky services in the fields. Notably, the number of physicians majoring in obstetrics will sharply decline to destroy the sound delivery environment, as it is challenging to prevent delivery accidents.

Attracting the participants’ eyes was the obstetrician in Incheon surnamed Lee, who was sentenced to imprisonment at a lower court for infant’s death during delivery but appealed and finally received a verdict of not guilty at the Supreme Court.

“I had thought the medical accident was none of my business and lived thinking all had to do was not to commit one. So I could not know to whom I should ask for help when an absurd thing happened to me. I could be acquitted in the end with the help of my colleagues,” Lee said close to tears.

Stressing that obstetricians try to save mother and child in emergencies, Lee said, “If judges held physicians legally accountable by, for instance, putting them under court custody in an important medical suit, however, it will be difficult for us to continue to operate maternity wards in this country. The state should step in to ensure ob-gyns to continue their service under a secure judicial environment.”

Doctors participating in the rally to denounce the arrest of obstetrician are wearing paper caps that say, "medical practice with conviction."

‘Who will run ob-gyns if they are arrested for the poor outcome?’

Criticism gushed at the rally, pointing to the need to improve the social climate, in which people make doctors legally responsible for inevitable medical accidents.

“The essence of this incident is not a doctor leading a pregnant woman to death but a court ruling that imprisoned the doctor for failing to save the mother from death,” said Kim Dong-seok, head of the Korea Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The reason this ruling is fearful is that any ob-gyn can experience the premature separation of placenta any time and that any experienced doctor would find it extremely difficult to diagnose and treat the situation.”

Noting that medical practices accompany statistical risks, Kim said that if doctors are arrested because of the unfortunate results of medical practices, any physicians can’t help but avoid arrests someday. How could doctors treat patients if they face imprisonment for failing to save patients 100 percent under irresistible situations? Most ob-gyns are too frightened to perform delivery any longer, he added.

Kim Dong-seok, president of the Korea Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, claimed the court should not take doctors responsible legally for uncontrollable medical accidents at the rally.

“Please keep obstetricians from leaving the delivery room because of verdicts hard to understand,” Kim said. “We did not select the ob-gyn department not to become convicts but to protect the health rights of mothers and children. Let us remain beside people as obstetricians who think their job as their vocation no matter how difficult it may be.”

Kim Seung-cheol, head of the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said, “Korea’s medical reality is dashing cold water on the pride of obstetricians. The unappreciation and ungrounded exclusion have reached the judiciary branch, which is supposed to remain the most objective and fair part of this country.”

Kim Yun-ha, chairman of the Korean Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, said, “If Korea aggravates its childbirth infrastructure, it will result in problems, such as the increase of areas vulnerable to delivery accidents and rise in maternal mortality rates.

Noting that there has been a steady rise in high-risk mothers, Kim said, “The government needs to provide support for making a medical environment for their safe delivery. Legal, institutional, and social safety devices are needed. We call for the government’s positive intervention to improve medical disputes resulting from uncontrollable accidents as well as introduce the compensation system for accident-free doctors.”

‘KMA will go all out to enact a special law for handling medical accidents’

Choi Dae-zip, head of the Korean Medical Association, who had just finished a hunger strike calling for healthcare reform, vowed to strive to make a special law on handling medical accidents.

Choi Dae-zip, president of the Korean Medical Association, said he would try to enact a “special law to cope with medical accidents,” during the rally.

“If the court arrests doctors because they produced wrong results from all medical practices performed with good intention, all physicians will avoid risky treatments for no other purpose than becoming convicts,” Choi said. “At a time when low birthrate is emerging as a grave social issue, we won’t be able to prevent ob-gyns from giving up childbirth.”

“The enactment of a special law to handle medical accidents is one of the six tasks for medical reform pushed by the Committee to Struggle to Win Medical Reform. We will attain it by all means to prevent the recurrence of the recent incident,” Choi said.

“Politicians should enact the law so that we doctors do not need to stage a rally enduring hardships. Otherwise, it will be difficult to normalize the Korean healthcare system.”

The participants issued a statement, calling for enacting a special law to cope with medical accidents and introducing a state compensation system for uncontrollable medical accidents.

“The government’s distorted awareness that demands indemnity on doctors for reason of performing delivery although they make no mistakes is violence that tramples on obstetricians’ self-esteem, destroying childbirth infrastructure,” the statement said. “Stop criminal indictment that mass-produces physicians-turned-convicts right away, and enact the medical accident special that allows exceptions for medical practices from criminal punishment.”

It went on to say, “Dismantle immediately the Korea Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency, which was reduced to a means of collecting evidence, filing criminal charges and conducting arrests.”


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