Malaysiakini Letter

Unregistered clinic no reason to jail doc

Reuben Sher  |  Published:  |  Modified:

With reference to the media reports of a doctor being convicted for not registering his clinic, it is completely meaningless that this registered doctor was fined a whopping RM120,000 for not registering his clinic. And since he couldn’t come up with the fine, he was sent off to serve a three- month jail term.

In April of last year, the Health Ministry director-general asserted that the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 was enacted to ensure private hospitals carry out their social responsibilities and was not meant to be punitive or detrimental in nature.

He and the previous health minister, Chua Soi Lek, further assured the medical community that since the Act was outdated, changes would be made and ratified by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. These changes have yet to be agreed upon or ratified but the Act has already been applied, leading now to a doctor being convicted on a technicality.

Will the DG now tell the judge that she should not have passed this type of sentence? Of course not, because that is not how the law works once an Act is passed.

This is the end result of laws that are not debated transparently or done so secretly or in a callous manner. Someone down the road will have to bear the consequences and this unfortunate doctor will now have to pay a heavy price.

This doctor’s ‘crime’ was not that he performed an illegal operation, killed or maimed a patient, cut off a baby’s arm or transfused HIV blood into a trusting patient. He apparently is a qualified doctor unlike some ‘sinsehs’, ‘bomohs’ or beauticians who masquerade as doctors and carry out clinical procedures.

His crime was a technical one. He did not register his clinic. His first duty would have been, like any other doctor, to see to his patients’ health. It doesn’t bear logic that not registering his clinic would kill his patient.

Many doctors were wary of the implications of these punitive punishments when Chua and the current DG were actively campaigning for this law. All their assurances that doctors will not be punished on technicalities has now come to naught as evidenced by the lop-sided punishment this doctor - who apparently didn’t have the financial means to defend himself - received.

Not only will his family will be left to fend for themselves but in all likelihood his career as a doctor may come to an end. This Act was passed in a rush and now has clearly been applied in bad faith.

Without doubt, this incident will only erode further the trust doctors will have on an already disorganised Health Ministry.

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