‘Protecting Its Own?’ MMC Doesn’t Handle Medical Negligence, Doctor Says

By Boo Su-Lyn | 30 January 2020

The Malaysian Medical Council has been accused of protecting doctors.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) has no jurisdiction to address allegations of medical malpractice unless ethics violations are involved, a veteran physician said.

Former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum explained that medical negligence complaints should be filed through lawsuits in the civil courts, after a news report accused the MMC — a statutory body regulating doctors in the country — of protecting their own and failing to hold errant medical practitioners accountable.

“The medical council doesn’t involve itself in cases of alleged negligence unless there’s an ethical component to it,” Dr Lum told CodeBlue.

He said an example of medical negligence is complications arising from surgery that a court decides resulted from what a doctor did or did not do, whereas an ethics violation can be a doctor refusing a request to see a patient.

Asia Sentinel reported last Monday alleged conflict of interest in a few cases heard by the MMC, claiming that insurance companies like Medical Defence Malaysia were often connected to MMC disciplinary committees and the doctors they are hired to defend.

The news site also claimed that the MMC did not investigate almost 90 per cent of over 3,500 complaints of medical errors, like wrongful surgery, at both public and private hospitals that were reported to the Health Ministry. Only 150 cases are probed by an investigating panel yearly.

Disciplinary action was reportedly taken in less than 1 per cent of cases. Only 14 doctors have been struck off medical practice over 14 years, while 39 were suspended and 73 reprimanded.

“The other thing that one has to remember, in the system in this country as in most commonwealth countries, he who alleges must prove. So that is the basic principle,” Dr Lum said.

A lawyer with one rape and two sexual harassment cases with the MMC complained that “cases there never move”.

“Pointless to go there,” the criminal lawyer told CodeBlue, requesting anonymity because his clients did not want to publicise their complaints.

Asia Sentinel noted that no lawyers, members of advocacy groups, or public representatives are on the MMC that regulates medical practice in Malaysia, which it claimed overly represented academics.

Dr Lum, who is also past president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM), acknowledged that the MMC only comprises doctors, but said the disciplinary board which hears enquiries on incidents that happened on or after July 1, 2017, always has one layperson in each hearing. The quorum is five.

Actions that can be taken by the MMC on ethical violations by medical practitioners include deregistration, suspension, or a reprimand. Under new regulations that came into effect for ethical incidents happening after July 1, 2017, the MMC can also send errant doctors for rehabilitation, including extra training and reporting to another person.

“Any complainant who’s aggrieved with an MMC decision or PIC (preliminary investigation committee) decision can go to court and seek a judicial review,” Dr Lum said. A complaint against a doctor goes to PIC first before the MMC.

MMC president Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who is also the Health director-general, did not respond to CodeBlue’s requests for comment.

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