Ecuador’s doctors are reacting with cautious optimism to an agreement reached Thursday between the government and the national medical association about new malpractice rules contained in the country’s new penal code.
In the agreement, doctors agreed to let the National Court of Justice (CNJ) review Article 146 of the penal code which, in some cases, criminalizes a physician’s actions if a patient dies during medical treatment. The doctors say the language is vague and could penalize doctors for making honest mistakes when treating patients.
In some cases, according Article 146, a doctor could be imprisoned for up to five years.
The controversial language refers to “unnecessary, dangerous and illegitimate actions.”
In the negotiation, both the government and doctors agreed to let the court clarify the language. According to court president Gustavo Jalkh, the CNJ will spell out, in detail, when criminal charges can be brought and, based on his comments, the circumstances for such charges would require high degree of fault.
Following the agreement, doctors called off a protest march scheduled for Tuesday in Quito.
More than 200 hundred doctors at public hospitals have resigned because of Article 146. According to Thursday’s agreement, they would have the option of returning to their jobs.
Photo caption: Doctors protested Monday in Quito.