By Cheng Hung-ta / Staff reporter
The legislature yesterday passed an amendment to the Medical Care Act （醫療法） to stiffen the penalties for physical or verbal abuse of medical care personnel, with those verbally insulting medical workers liable to be fined for the first time.
Under the amended act, those who obstruct the execution of medical care or treatment through insults can be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$50,000 （US$988 and US$1,647）.
Those who use violent or otherwise illegal means to interfere with medical practitioners carrying out procedures, causing death, face a minimum seven-year prison term and a maximum life sentence.
Lawmakers introduced the amendment after numerous incidents of “hospital rage,” in which patients or their families have attacked paramedics, nurses and doctors at hospitals and clinics.
Such “hospital rage” incidents violate the rights of medical practitioners, other patients and their families, while the public has suffered from a deterioration in the morale of personnel at medical facilities, lawmakers said.
The added offense of “public insult” prohibits any person from engaging in violent conduct, use of coercion, uttering threats and other illegal means to interfere with the duties of medical practitioners.
The same provision requires medical institutions to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of medical personnel, while law enforcement agencies must also take action to prevent violence and other illegal conduct, thereby ensuring the protection of medical practitioners, paramedics and emergency ward workers.
Offenders of the provision can be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$50,000 and would be investigated by the judiciary for committing a criminal offense.
In cases of damage to the property of a medical institution, where the result endangers the lives or health of patients or causes damage to life-preserving equipment, the offender can receive a maximum three-year prison term or a fine of NT$300,000.
Other provisions deal with offenders using violent or otherwise illegal means to interfere with medical practitioners or paramedics carrying out medical procedures, who can receive a maximum three-year prison term along with a maximum fine of NT$30,000.
Violent offenders who cause serious injuries to medical practitioners or paramedics may receive a three to seven-year prison term, while in cases causing death, the punishment ranges from a seven-year prison term to a life sentence.
Chinese Nationalist Party （KMT） Legislator Chen Yi-ming （陳宜民） said that the amendment would act as a deterrent and rectifies deficiencies in the Medical Care Act, and the overall aim is to provide a safe environment in which medical personnel can carry out their work.
Additional reporting by CNA