Case Note on Emergency Medical Services: Writ Petition 1509/2016

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It is often seen that many clinics, hospitals, and other medical service providers like diagnostic centers lack basic facilities to handle medical emergencies in their vicinity. In other cases, we have seen cases where certain patients of road accidents or attacks are rejected medical care by hospitals and clinics instead of treating them.

In Writ Petition No. 1509 of 2016, the Petitioners filed an application to address the failure of existing hospitals and clinics, whether publicly or privately owned, to provide emergency medical services to critically injured persons. Accordingly, being satisfied, the Hon’ble High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh issued a Rule Nisi calling upon the Respondents as to why the same should not be declared to be without lawful authority and violative of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights under Articles 27, 31 & 32 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. The Hon’ble High Court Division further asked the respondents to show cause as to why a direction should not be issued requiring hospitals, clinics and doctors to render immediate emergency medical services as and when critically injured persons are brought to them and if any hospital/clinic do not have such emergency facilities, then why should they not be directed to ensure that those critically injured persons are sent to the nearest available hospital with an emergency service facility. Furthermore, a question was also raised as to why such requirement should not be incorporated in the license issued to private hospitals and clinics.

On plain reading of the Writ Petition No. 1509 of 2016, the Petitioners discouraged the absence of a comprehensive legal framework stating provisions for emergency medical services in Bangladesh and pleaded to provide licenses to private clinics to treat those needing emergency healthcare. Additionally, questions were raised with regards to roles and protection of the Good Samaritans. The learned Advocate for the Petitioners further stated that the then existing policies and laws configuring the structure of emergency healthcare services were uncompromising and inadequate towards those needing emergency medical attention. The Petitioners have also raised questions concerning the safety when acting as Good Samaritans as there were no laws protecting them. Prior to the institution of Writ Petition No. 1509 of 2016, many Good Samaritans were harassed either by the police due to extensive questioning or involvement in lengthy court procedures which immediately pressed for the inclusion of the protection of Good Samaritans under the guidelines proposed by the Respondents in consultation with the Petitioners.

The সড়ক দুর্ঘটনায় আহত ব্যক্তির জর“রী স্বাস্ত সেবা নিশ্চিতকরণ ও সহায়তাকারীর সুরক্ষা প্রদান নীতিমালা, ২০১৮ is directly attributable to the many orders and directions issued by the Hon’ble Court in this landmark case. The said rules drafted by the Health Services Department under the Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Petitioners were praised by his Hon’ble Justice Syed Rifaat Ahmed leaving for some reservations and suggested improvements. The Hon’ble Court directed that the said নীতিমালা or rules in its entirety shall be deemed enforceable as binding by judicial sanction and approval pending appropriate legislative enactments incorporating entrenched standards, objectives, rights and duties. The court also directed a wide dissemination of the same through publication in official gazette and the media in the interest of the public. In an emotional closing statement the Hon’ble Court hoped that the said rules will serve an “Eulogic Ode” to the 18 year old victim called Arafat, who was killed in a road accident and eventual death due to rejection of medical service in his critically injured state which eventually triggered the filing of the instant Writ Petition.

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