Unethical To Jail Doctors For Rejecting Prescription Requests, Commonwealth Group Says

The Commonwealth Medical Association says that the criminal penalties imposed on doctors are “worrisome”.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 – Criminalising doctors’ refusal in issuing requested medicine prescriptions violates their professional autonomy and the medical profession’s ethical codes, a commonwealth physicians’ group said today.

The Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) — a non-governmental organisation comprising national medical associations from at least 41 commonwealth countries — urged Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to withdraw the amendments tabled on the Poisons Act 1952 that imposed a jail sentence of up to five years, a maximum RM50,000 fine, or both on doctors, dentists, and vets who reject their patients’ requests for prescriptions.

“While the Commonwealth Medical Association appreciates the need to advance the rights of patients within the framework of patient-centred care, the association is however not in support of any effort that seeks to vitiate the rights or professional autonomy of physicians in the Commonwealth or criminalise refusal of physicians to issue prescriptions,” said CMA president Dr Osahon Enabulele in a statement.

“Worrisome is the fact that these proposed amendments seek to compel physicians to mandatorily issue prescriptions to patients upon their demand, failing which such physicians are to be jailed and fined RM3,000.”

CMA said that acts, such as the refusal of physicians to issue prescriptions to patients, bother on ethical conduct which is meant to be adjudicated upon by the medical regulatory council of the respective countries.

“To legislate the criminalisation of such a conduct, as contemplated by the recent effort to amend the Poisons Act (enacted in 1952) in Malaysia, is not only an effort at violating the professional autonomy of physicians, but an act that is incongruous with the ethical codes/ framework guiding the profession of medicine.”

CMA urged MOH to withdraw the amendments and instead have discussions with stakeholders, particularly the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), in the review of any aspect of the Poisons Act bordering on prescription rights of physicians. MMA is a member of CMA.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad tabled an amendment to the Poisons Act 1952 in Parliament last week to legislate patients’ requests for drug prescriptions from their doctors.

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 of RM50,000 fine, up to five year’s imprisonment, or both.

Dzulkefly, however, said yesterday that MOH would review the Poisons (Amendment) 2019 Bill after physician groups widely criticised the provisions on mandatory prescriptions upon request.

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.

You may also like