Doctors risking more lawsuits than before, judges say

Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo

Medicine and the law have clashed multiple times in the past but patients are now suing more frequently over negligence, suffering side effects or even loss of life.
On this subject, Dr Sylvester Onzivua, a consultant pathologist at Mulago hospital, has for the past five years written riveting articles in Saturday Monitor under a column dubbed Medicine, Law and You. The articles have since been compiled into a book.
On Wednesday in Kampala, during the fourth annual Grande Doctors’ Conference, Dr Onzivua’s book was launched.

Attended by doctors and different people from both the medicine and law fraternity, the launch did not only present a book but gave doctors the chance to have question session with judges present.
Dr Onzivua said the medical practitioners and facilities have on a number of occasions been confronted with claims from aggrieved clients and had to pay heavy fines.

“And things have since changed, then, the government would intervene but today, it is the budget of the hospital that suffers,” he said.
Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, who was the chief guest, said medicine and law may both serve good purposes but tend to differ in the languages used and thus, having a common ground of understanding each.

Chances of law suits
Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire of the East African Court of Justice, who delivered the keynote address at the function, said with people paying money even in government-aided health centres, the chances of law suits especially, after a questionable service, are high.
“Previously, when public hospitals provided nearly a free service, the incentive for patients to follow up a poor service especially through litigation was limited,” he said.

He noted that doctors are now challenged more than ever to understand to what extent they owe the duty of care they owe their patients.
“This situation has to be addressed because we want to avoid a situation that is happening in the West where the medical profession has become too regulated,” Justice Kiryabwire added.
Medicine Law and You is available in bookstores in Kampala at Shs50,000 a copy.