Doctors ask for better legal protection from violent patients

Professional organizations of Latvian medical practitioners call for increased responsibility for attacks on medical workers. An open letter signed by the industry's nine organizations and the Emergency Medical Service was sent to the interior, justice, and health ministers, Latvian Radio reported February 29.

The President of the Latvian Medical Association, general practitioner Ilze Aizsilniece, told Latvian Radio that doctors, medical assistants, and nurses reported rising aggression directed at medics. The issue of young doctors experiencing patient aggression due to not knowing Russian has recently been brought up louder.

The aggression against medics is not just about language. Only a small fraction of the cases of violence were related to patients with health problems that could explain their actions.

"Our fellow family doctors have also approached even the police. But [..] there is not really any legislation to sort it out. We would like to review a number of legislative acts so that medical practitioners and emergency medical workers who participate in the treatment process are provided with protection," said Aizsilniece.

She said changes to both the Criminal Law and the Medical Treatment Law would be necessary.

"The Criminal Law contains Section 269, which is about assaulting a public official. We think this Criminal Law could also be supplemented by medical practitioners or persons who work in medicine and participate in the treatment process," said Aizilniece.

On the other hand, Article 47 of the Law on medical treatment provides that a medical practitioner may refuse assistance only if the life of a medical practitioner is at risk or if the medical practitioner himself or herself has very serious health problems. “But there is no regulation that can protect against aggressive and violent patients,” Aizsilniece added.

She also said that family doctors, if there has been contact with a violent patient, are not even entitled to refuse to treat that patient. If a family doctor rejects a patient, then a Health Inspectorate check comes, said Aizsilniece.

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