MMA slams proposed fine, jail for doctors refusing to give prescription slips

The Malaysian Medical Association wants to be consulted before any amendments are made that affect doctors. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has hit out at a bill that would imprison and fine doctors who refuse to provide a prescription to patients upon request, calling it “totally inappropriate”.

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran said such severe and harsh penalties should only be meted out for offences that result in severe consequences.

He noted that good medical practice dictates that upon request of a prescription by a patient, it should be given without any hesitance by the doctor.

In essence, Ganabaskaran, said the issue was one of medical ethics rather than a criminal act.

“MMA does not support the criminalisation of any professional group, including pharmacists,” he said in a statement.

It was reported yesterday that the health ministry tabled an amendment to the Poisons Act 1952 in Parliament to legislate patients’ requests for drug prescriptions from their doctors.

If passed, the Bill stipulates a RM3,000 fine, one year’s imprisonment, or both, should they refuse to provide prescription slips upon request.

Ganabaskaran went on to point out that a government circular demands for engagement with stakeholders and for impact analysis to be conducted before any act is amended.

Failure to do so, he said, “raises further concerns that need to be answered”.

Ganabaskaran also criticised a new provision in the bill that requires a digital signature for electronic prescriptions which would be sent to a registered pharmacist as an electronic message.

This amendment, he said, was alarming considering that e-prescriptions are part and parcel of online healthcare which involves complex ethical and regulatory enactments to ensure patients’ safety.

The near absence of such patient-safeguarding measures and input by healthcare professionals and, in particular the Malaysian Medical Council, is “of utmost concern”.

“Legalising e-prescriptions without these regulations in place opens up the potential for unethical and dangerous practices whereby patients may be given e-prescriptions without proper examinations.”

He also expressed concern over the sudden haste and urgency in tabling these amendments without due diligence.

Ganabaskaran urged Putrajaya to immediately withdraw the tabling of the amendments, consult stakeholders as well as to conduct impact analysis.

“It is not only the right thing to do but mandatory to protect patient safety and health.”