Using A Sledgehammer To Kill A Fly — Dr Lim Kuan Joo

The penalties mooted by the Ministry of Health to elicit compliance by doctors to notify the authorities of scheduled infectious diseases need to have a good basis.

The harsh penalties mooted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to elicit compliance by doctors and institutions to notify the authorities of scheduled infectious diseases need to have a good basis.

Has the MOH done a thorough study to understand the root causes of under-reporting?

Is the move an indication that the majority of doctors are not complying with requirements under Act 342?

How much of this “non-compliance” is the result of telephone calls to the District Health Office being received (if the line isn’t perpetually engaged), but not recorded and acted upon?

This brings to mind the patients who waited at the five-foot way outside the clinic, and were told to go home when the ambulance did not turn up, not to mention the many patients waiting at home.

If the excuse is that the District Health Office is overwhelmed, then it cannot be translated as non-compliance by doctors.

Finally, is the move by MOH even ethical? The following ethical principles in health legislation are laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Public Health Necessity: Coercive powers should be exercised on the basis of a demonstrable threat to public health. Mandatory physical examinations, treatments, or isolation should require a reasonable suspicion that the person is contagious, or could pose harm to others.
  • Reasonable And Effective Means: The specific measures adopted by governments must be appropriate to prevent or reduce the threat. Governments should monitor the effectiveness of public health interventions and ensure that they are based on sound science.
  • Proportionality: Governments must strive to ensure that there is a reasonable fit between the coercive measures imposed on individuals, and the public health benefits that they seek to achieve. Governments should adopt the least burdensome measure from among the measures that are available, and must be reasonably appropriate to mitigate the risks in question. Restrictions that are gratuitously onerous or unfair may overstep ethical boundaries.
  • Distributive Justice: The risks, benefits and burdens of public health interventions should be shared fairly. For example, vulnerable segments of the population should not be targeted with restrictive measures, nor excluded or given lower priority in the allocation of treatment, vaccines, or other benefits. Advancing the right to health is the vital role of law.
  • Trust And Transparency: The public should have an opportunity to participate in the formulation of public health policies, and governments should give reasons for policies and decisions that restrict individual freedoms. Openness and accountability are essential to generating public trust, and are likely to improve public health decision-making. Without public trust and voluntary cooperation, governments will find it harder to achieve their goals and to act in the public interest.

Kita jaga kita.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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