In recent years, the number of medical disputes has risen rapidly and the industry’s regulatory body now reportedly handles an average of 430 cases every year. One prominent medical dispute in 1996 concluded with record compensation of NT$43 million (US$1.42 million) this year.
Justice might have been done in this instance, but the reality is that few medical professionals can afford to pay such large settlements. Fear of being sued forces people to behave defensively to minimize their exposure to possible mistakes. As long as such a culture of blame prevails, it is extremely difficult to improve information transparency and encourage medical practitioners to learn from their mistakes.
It has been established that the risk of being injured in hospital is as high as in daily life. However, while there is mandatory third-party liability auto insurance to cover those involved in traffic accidents, an insurance system to cover medical malpractice remains in its infancy in Taiwan.
In addition, that medical malpractice can be dealt with under criminal law in Taiwan means that a higher number of medical professionals are convicted of committing crimes than in other countries.
The most common reaction in a medical dispute is to blame the individual medical workers involved rather than the system. For example, if an obstetrician decides that an urgent Caesarean section is needed, but the hospital fails to provide the resources needed, adversely impacting the baby, who is to blame, the doctor or the hospital? Even doctors themselves tend not to pay attention to systemic problems.