Authorities reconsider punishment for medical errors in Kazakhstan

Senior news correspondent

Kazakhstan’s government is going to soften punishment for those health workers indicted for medical errors. The members of Mazhilis have already adopted the draft law.

The new rule suggests decreasing the fine and detention period for unintended infliction of mild or serious harm to someone’s health, according to Minister of Health Azhar Giniyat, who presented the draft law to members of the parliament.

«We are going to replace imprisonment with limitation of freedom for those who were indicted for infliction of serious harm to someone’s health,» she said.

The new law will soften punishments that the current Criminal Code offers in the case of negligence to professional duties by health or pharmacy workers.

For example, the draft law is going to reduce a fine for mild harm to someone’s health from $1,296 to $653. Also, new punishments will include 100 hours of public work instead of 180 hours and 30 days of arrest (50 days under the previous legislation).

The same approach is going to be applied in cases of serious harm to a patient’s health. The fine will be decreased from $19,423 to $13,019, while the imprisonment period is going to be reduced from five years to four years in case of a fatal outcome for one patient and six years in prison for the death of two and more patients (instead of seven years in prison). The unintentional contamination of a patient’s blood with HIV/AIDS will be punished with five years in prison. Moreover, the health ministry suggests replacing the regulatory provision of imprisonment with a limitation of freedom.

On the other hand, the draft law proposes implementing professional liability insurance for health workers. This means that in the case of a medical error, criminal charges might be replaced with cash payments to a patient or his relatives. However, this might be possible only if there are no objections from the patient’s side.

The document is also aimed at raising the status of medical workers and promoting social support for them. These measures include salary increases and different non-monetary gifts.

Kazakhstan has tried to soften punishments for medical errors for years. In 2020, the parliament reviewed very similar amendments to the legislation but didn’t approve them. In September 2022, Azhar Giniyat presented the current draft law to the Mazhilis for the first time. At the time, it was expected that the law would enter into force in 2023. Later, this deadline was changed. The new law will enter into force in January 2025.

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