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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 4)

All Headlines 07:02 January 04, 2019

Safety of doctors
: Assault on medical staff at hospitals on the rise

A shocking incident occurred at a general hospital in Seoul on Dec. 31. A psychiatrist was stabbed to death by a patient during a consultation. The man suspected of murder has admitted to the killing during police investigation but did not provide a clear motive.

The suspect reportedly threatened the doctor, identified by his surname Lim, with a knife at the clinic and stabbed him several times when he escaped to the hallway. The suspect is known be suffering from bipolar disorder. The incident has shaken the entire medical community and has renewed public attention to the dangers doctors face on the job from unruly patients.

The doctor is known to be respected in his field and has previously been acknowledged with an award from the Korea Association for Suicide Prevention for his work in helping patients struggling with depression and suicide prevention. The case has attracted a lot of public attention because violence by patients at hospitals arising from various disputes and grievances has been on the rise as shown in the latest reports. According to a recent survey by the Korean Society of Emergency Medicine, more than 60 percent of emergency medical staff, including doctors and nurses, have experienced assault on the job.

A day before the this incident, another doctor working at a university hospital in Incheon was also in the news for being beaten by his patient who was upset that he had to wait too long to receive treatment. Just last year, there were almost 900 assault cases at hospitals.

It is hard to believe a patient was able to enter the hospital carrying a dangerous weapon without anyone noticing. Violence at hospitals affects not only the staff, but can also cause grave inconveniences for other patients and their families. Therefore, effective countermeasures need to be implemented to maintain the quality of treatment. In this case, the killing could have been prevented if there had been a better security system at the hospital to ban entrance of those carrying dangerous weapons. Hospitals should improve their security checks and beef up security personnel to create a safer environment for treatment .

Those working at emergency rooms in particular are exposed to the possibility of verbal and physical violence. Against this backdrop, the National Assembly passed a bill for stronger punishment for injuring medical staff at emergency rooms and is expected to take effect this month. However, the recent incident shows that such strict measures against assault and battery are necessary not only at emergency rooms but also in general clinics. The Assembly should consider a revision to the relevant law to strengthen punishment for assault on any medical personnel to better ensure the safety of all.
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