Over half of doctors have been assaulted by patients or relatives in Latvia

In order to protect doctors from violence by patients or their relatives, the Latvian Medical Association (LĀB) wants to change Article 269 of the Criminal Law. If introduced, medical staff would have a similar status to police officers or firefighters: if attacked, perpetrators risk going to jail, Latvian Rado reported on May 15.

According to a survey carried out by the LĀB, 61% of medical staff have experienced violence in the workplace, and 72% of them have experienced violence three or more times.

Currently, there is no strict legal framework to protect doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals from violent patients or their relatives. At the same time, if someone attacks a police officer or a firefighter, they can even be imprisoned - up to 13 years if the attack causes serious bodily harm.

In the course of their daily work, which involves caring for the health and life of patients, doctors must also think about their own safety. For example, Emergency Medical Service staff regularly face physical attacks when saving lives - the police have to be called about 200 times every month.

The results of the survey are quite alarming and cannot be ignored, said Ilze Aizsilniece, President of the Latvian Medical Association: "Very few people had approached law enforcement agencies, but I have to say that out of the 90 who had approached, 61 of them did not have their documents accepted. You see, even if it is 39 cases last year where doctors or other medical professionals went to the police because they were being abused, I think that is a lot in a country as small as Latvia."

The most common places where medics encounter violence by patients or their relatives are in reception wards and outpatient care, as well as in intensive care units.

The issue is now promised to be discussed in the Justice Ministry's permanent working group on criminal law. The results of the survey are being taken into account and there will be amendments to the Criminal La,w said Lauma Paegļkalna, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Justice:

"There will be amendments to the Criminal Law. On the one hand, any punitive norm is a deterrent. If people continue to act in this way and commit violence against medical practitioners, then this will be a real tool for doctors to protect themselves by filing a complaint with the law enforcement authorities, which have the duty to investigate and further prosecute such people."

In addition to legislative changes, general public education and communication are also important. The President of the Latvian Medical Association called on all medical staff to contact the police if they have received a threat or have been physically attacked. She also stressed that she wanted the doctor-patient relationship to be focused on cooperation, not conflict.

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