Bahrain - Medics who fail to disclose vital information to the authorities on the cause of a death, or the severe injuries suffered by a patient, could be jailed or fined, or receive a combination of both from the courts.

Currently, such violations are met with a maximum fine of up to BD10.

The Shura Council yesterday approved tougher punishments through amendments to the 1976 Penal Code, after a lengthy debate on the issue.

MPs had earlier demanded that violating medics be jailed for no less than a year or fined between BD200 and BD2,000, or both.

The government backed the proposal for tougher penalties, however, leaving the punishment open for judges to decide.

It also stressed the need for uniformity in punishments for violations in major professions.Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa said judges should be allowed to determine the appropriate sentence after assessing each case and its impact.

“Currently, medics who fail to disclose information are fined a maximum of BD10, which, we agree, is insufficient to tackle the violation,” Shaikh Khalid said.“Failure to address a case could have grave implications and may even impact the course of justice.“Authorities should know what exactly happened to a victim – whether there were minor or major burns, fractures or injuries which resulted in a disability or paralysis, or even death

.“Failure to report key information is a grave error and we support legislative moves to toughen punishments, which will be decided by the judge.“A medic may have failed to disclose complete information and it could be a deliberate act or a result of negligence. The punishment could be BD10 or BD500, or a jail term – but again, let the courts decide.”Member Dr Abdulaziz Abul questioned why medics should be given jail terms while the government was pushing to remove similar punishments for media personnel in the 2002 Publications Law.

Shaikh Khalid explained that medical violations constituted a serious crime as it involved people’s lives.

Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain said failure to disclose information obstructs justice.

“We are not accusing medics of being criminals, but they should understand what is major and minor and state it in the report, without leaving out any information,” he said.“It is important for judges to know the truth. Failure to report information could lead to denial of justice.”

Shura Council members unanimously approved the punishment during their weekly session yesterday.

The amendments will be now ratified by His Majesty King Hamad.

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