Special courts for medical errors planned

January 26, 2014 - 2:48:58 am

DOHA: Qatar is planning to set up special courts to hear complaints about medical errors, a senior official of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) said yesterday.

The SCH is working with the Supreme Judicial Council and the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Center to chalk out details of the project, according to Dr Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, acting CEO of the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners, the body that gives licences to health care practitioners. 

He said the special court/tribunal has been proposed considering that medical errors are different from civil and criminal offences.

“We have been looking for a proper mechanism to address such complaints, protecting the rights of both the patients and the health practitioners. An ordinary court — civil or criminal — is not the right place to try such cases, because in most instances a person committing a medical error cannot be treated like a criminal. There may be criminal acts involved but this should be decided by an expert panel. That is how the new proposal came up,” said Al Khanji. He said, while addressing such issues, the first priority should be to protect the rights of patients but at the same time, the decision and the process should not affect the morale of doctors and other staff. 

The official said the project is in the initial stages and the shape of the proposed body has yet to be finalised.

“We are more for a tribunal than an independent court. This body should have legal and medical experts with powers to hear complaints and issue judgments. It can also decide on whether a case should be referred to other courts,” said Al Khanji.

The defendants should have the right to appeal. In a related initiative, the SCH recently disclosed plans to set up a “patient advocacy body” comprising representatives from the community to advise patients on their rights and issues related to medical errors.

Quoting a report by the general secretariat of the State Cabinet, a local Arabic daily said yesterday that the government is working to set up special courts to hear cases related to medical errors as well as a supreme committee for medical issues. 

The committee will give its expert opinion upon request from the Public Prosecution, the court or the health entity concerned on whether there is a medical error involved and the professional risks related to medical practice, said the daily. The Peninsula

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