Seven out of 10 physicians said they have been attacked verbally or physically by patients or guardians in the past three years, a survey showed.
To protect doctors from violence, the medical community made several demands to the government and lawmakers. It called for removing a clause in the law that prohibits a criminal from the prosecution if the victim does not want the prosecution; adding a provision to the Medical Services Act allowing doctors’ rights to refuse treatment; providing financial support to prepare evacuation spaces and routes in doctors’ offices; making rules to punish acts of asking or coercing the issuance of false medical certificates; and forming a consultative body to create a safe environment for treatment.
|Korean Medical Association President Choi Dae-zip holds a new conference to root out violent acts against doctors at the KMA’s office in Yongsan, Seoul, on Wednesday.|
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) announced the results of the survey on its members about violence against physicians at a news conference in Yongsan, Seoul, on Wednesday.
KMA’s doctor survey asked 24 questions to 2,034 physicians.
According to the opinion poll, 71.5 percent of 1,455 respondents said they had been assaulted verbally or physically during outpatient treatment, excluding emergency care, in the past three years.
Among them, 15 percent were physically attacked, and 10.4 percent suffered physical injury. Some of them received sutures, surgery, or had to be hospitalized for a short time. Some cases were life-threatening due to severe trauma or fractures.
The verbal attacks and physical assaults were frequent. About 54 percent of the pollees said they experienced verbal abuse and violence at least once a year. Worse yet, o.2 percent said they were exposed to either of them every month.
The most cited reason for verbal abuse or physical violence was “dissatisfaction with treatment result,” followed by complaints about “long waiting time” and “cost.” Sixteen percent of the respondents said patients were dissatisfied with the issuance of documents such as medical certificates and opinions.
However, not many doctors actively responded to verbal and physical abuse by, for instance, suing the attackers.
Only 28 percent of the respondents, or 468, said they reported to the police or took legal actions when verbally abused or physically attacked.
The most common reason for inaction was “dropping the complaint or accusation due to the persuasion or recommendation of the police or law enforcement officials.” Other reasons included “the perpetrator’s apology or request for withdrawal” and “burden of judicial proceedings.”
The survey also showed that many patients demanded doctors falsify medical documents to seek damage insurance claims or earn disability grades.
Out of the 2,034 respondents, 61.7 percent (1,254) said they had been asked to issue false medical certificates or modify the contents of the written diagnoses falsely about the condition of patients.
Almost all respondents, 99.4 percent, said the law is necessary to punish those who demand the issuance of a false medical certificate.
KMA President Choi Dae-zip said violent cases against workers in medical institutions have long been pointed out as a social problem.
“The initial shock and damage that the victim suffers is a problem, of course, but as the victim is a medical practitioner who treats patients, violence in a medical institution causes much more than a simple personal injury. The victim's damage leads to severe damage to the public interest,” Choi said.
Choi went on to say that people who wielded violence once at a medical institution are likely to revisit the hospital. In that case, the physician has tremendous difficulty to provide treatment, he said. “The Ministry of Health and Welfare states the cases in which doctors can refuse to provide treatment, but this should be stipulated in the Medical Services Act,” he emphasized.
If an urgent incident occurs due to a patient’s violent act, establishing evacuation routes or space to protect doctors will be a viable idea, Choi noted.
However, hospitals cannot take such measures, and so the government should allocate more spending to support it, he claimed.
Choi also said he would propose to the health and welfare ministry forming a consultative body consisting of the KMA, the Korean Hospital Association, and the ministry to come up with measures to prevent attacks against physicians.
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