Dzulkefly: Declining Prescriptions May Be Misconduct, Not Criminal Offence

By Vinodh Pillai | 03 December 2019

The health minister also says the medical fraternity has previously been engaged on mandatory prescriptions upon request.

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PETALING JAYA, Dec 3 — Instead of jail time or a fine for medical practitioners who reject patients’ requests for medicine prescriptions, the Health Ministry is mulling changing this to misconduct instead of classifying it a criminal offence.

According to Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, such breaches or misconduct will be “duly handled” by the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) that regulates medical practice in Malaysia.

Dzulkefly — whose ministry has come under fire from several groups for the proposed amendments to the Poisons Act 1952 to criminalise declining prescriptions requested by patients — said it wouldn’t be difficult to revisit and make amendments to the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill, adding that he has consulted various experts, including the Parliament Speaker.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event here, he said it could have been an oversight by grouping offences “with the others”, but that he is more than happy to revisit the matter.

“I’ve said this enough: in all bills, sometimes there are amendments to amendments, and amendments to further amendments,” he said after launching a mental health handbook by the Malaysian Psychiatric Association, Malaysian Mental Health Association, and Pfizer Malaysia, here.

“Give us the appropriate time for us to look into it and re-present it,” he added.

“The intention has always been noble and that mandatory prescription upon request is something that we have engaged the medical fraternity and pharmaceutical fraternity; it was not the case of people not (being) engaged.

“I can have that by way of dates and town hall discussions that we had,” he said, on the back of the Malaysian Medical Association’s (MMA) accusation that the government did not consult stakeholders before pushing for the amendments.

CodeBlue broke the news about the tabling of the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill for first reading in Parliament last Monday, which would criminalise physicians’ rejection of their patients’ prescription requests.

The new Bill, if passed, will make it mandatory for doctors, dentists, and veterinarians to provide prescriptions upon request from patients, failing which they will be guilty of an offence that is punishable by a maximum RM50,000 fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both. The Bill enhanced punishments for offences against the Poisons Act that are currently set at a maximum of one year’s jail, a fine not exceeding RM3,000, or both.

The Bill would also expand the powers of Health Ministry enforcement officials to allow them to search private clinics, hospitals or other premises and to seize documents if an offence was suspected, protecting them from lawsuits, and allowing evidence by agent provocateurs.

At today’s press conference, Dzulkefly said that framing Bills remains a large challenge.

“For whatever that has been said, it has been unfortunate and inadvertently included for that because this is a new amendment and somehow it has been placed together by way of its offence and punishment with the other major offences.

“So I’ve already said this very clearly in my statement, in my press release. I hope you understand that very well. It’s basic Melayu. I can write it in English if you want to,” he told CodeBlue when pressed on the issue.

“But I have said that we will look into it (at) all this unfortunate framing problem and the offences, as I’ve said, we will look into it… Please, give us a break.

“I’m giving you more than what I thought would be necessary, but CodeBlue has been harping on this so much that I must respond to this.”

Dzulkefly also clarified that his deputy, Dr Lee Boon Chye, was the one who had tabled the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill.

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