KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 – The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today criticised the government for not consulting stakeholders before pushing legal amendments to criminalise doctors for rejecting patients’ prescription requests.
The country’s largest association of doctors reminded the Health Ministry of a 2015 circular by the Chief Secretary to the Government that requires prior regulatory impact analysis and stakeholders’ engagement for any amendments to Acts and regulations.
“The dereliction of these critical steps prior to tabling the amendments raise further concerns that need to be answered,” MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said in a statement today.
“The inclusion of possible jail terms for private medical doctors, dental surgeons and veterinarians who do not comply to requests for prescriptions by patients is totally inappropriate. Such severe and harsh penalties should only be meted out for offences that may result in severe consequences,” he added.
CodeBlue reported that Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad tabled the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill for first reading in Parliament last Monday that sought to criminalise doctors’ rejection of their patients’ prescription requests.
The new Bill, if passed, will make it mandatory for doctors, dentists, and vets 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.
“MMA strongly objects to the proposed amendments and urges the government to withdraw the tabling with immediate effect for further stakeholders’ consultations and impact analysis,” said Dr Ganabaskaran in response.
He said that giving prescriptions upon request is a matter of good practice by a doctor, which should be given without any hesitancy.
“Will the pharmacist or pharmacy too, be penalised with a jail sentence if they dispense without a prescription? MMA does not support criminalisation of any professional group including pharmacists,” he asked in a statement.
Dr Ganabaskaran also spoke on the inclusion of a provision in the Poisons Act amendment Bill on electronic prescriptions, Section 21(2A), where they are to be signed with a digital signature and sent to a registered pharmacist as an electronic message.
“This amendment is alarming considering that e-prescriptions is part and parcel of online healthcare which involves complex ethical and regulatory enactments to ensure patient safety,” said the MMA president.
“The near absence of such patient safeguarding measures and input by health care professionals and in particular the Malaysian Medical Council is of utmost concern.
“The legalising of e-prescriptions without these regulations in place open up the potential for unethical and dangerous practice whereby patients may be given e-prescriptions without proper examinations,” he added.
Correction note: The Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill enhanced the punishment for offences against the Poisons Act from maximum one-year’s jail, a fine not exceeding RM3,000, or both to maximum five-years’ jail, a fine not exceeding RM50,000, or both. Under the Bill, declining to issue prescriptions upon patients’ request is defined as an offence against the Act. The article has since been corrected to reflect the new proposed punishments.