Updated: 2013-10-30 06:58
The calls for zero-tolerance to any form of violence against medical workers are definitely necessary after doctors and nurses were targets of violent incidents in six hospitals nationwide over the last 10 days, leading to one death and several injuries.
Such calls from the country's four medical associations are in line with those institutions' responsibilities for medical workers' safety. And certainly more timely law-enforcement intervention is needed to prevent anger at doctors and nurses escalating into violence.
But fundamentally more needs to be done to address the deteriorating relations between doctors and their patients, and broader retrospection is needed to examine the causes.
Medical workers were once portrayed as "angels in white" in China. However, relations between these angels and their patients have deteriorated to such an extent that not only have they lost their wings they are even beaten black and blue or killed by angry patients or their relatives.
But no matter how dissatisfied a patient is with the treatment they receive, it is absolutely unacceptable and against the law to verbally or even physically abuse a medical worker.
How has it come to this?
Part of the problem, as everyone knows, is hospitals overcharge and overmedicate to make money. Many patients receive unnecessary medical examinations when they go to doctors for just a minor ailment, and the scandal of GlaxoSmithKline paying doctors to prescribe its drugs on the Chinese mainland is merely the tip of an iceberg.
Of course, there are doctors who dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to giving patients the best possible medical service. But even if only a few have abused their authority as medical professionals it has been enough to tarnish the reputation of all medical workers and cause mistrust.
Such mistrust is particularly harmful when a medical dispute is involved. Things get worse in the absence of a trusted third-party that can conduct a liability investigation when discords arise over an alleged medical incident.
Besides a crackdown on such violence, a mechanism is badly needed to prevent doctors from getting illegal gains by compromising the quality of the service they provide.
It is equally important to improve the existing dispute resolution mechanisms, so that patients can have their complaints heard and dealt with quickly and fairly.
These will help restore people's faith in medical workers.
(China Daily 10/30/2013 page8)