Egypt parliament legalizes sterilization and abortion

The People’s Assembly health committee approved yesterday two articles of a draft law on medical responsibility submitted by Dr. Hamdi el-Sayyid, chairman of the health committee and Doctors Syndicate head.

The first article legalizes sterilization and abortions by a specialized gynecologist for married women who face "difficult living conditions." The article permits such procedures in the case fetal malformations or where there is a risk of malformation due to the mother’s age or disease history.

Dr. el-Sayyed defended the decision saying, "There’s a need to consider the difficult living conditions that prevent some families from raising their children well and providing for them. Such conditions should be certified by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the family in question must have a sufficient number of children."

The second article of the draft law calls for the formation of a committee for medical responsibility to provide opinions upon the request of the Public Prosecution or concerned courts, said Dr. el-Sayyed. He added that this committee will help implement just rulings, especially since forensic medicine–whose practitioners often rush and don’t undertake careful study–isn’t always able to determine where responsibility for a mistake lies.

Amr el-Taher, deputy of the legislative committee, opposed the formation of such a committee, warning that it will play the role of a "judge." Dr. el-Sayyed, however, said the committee will only issue advisory opinions to protect doctors from false accusations, usually stemming from complications that patients face as a result of surgeries.

Gamal el-Zeiny, a People’s Assembly member from the ruling National Democratic Party, approved the establishment of the committee, saying that doctors have become "vulnerable" and tend to be punished even before being questioned. He further pointed out that doctors shouldn’t be referred directly for prosecution for professional mistakes. El-Zeiny criticized Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali for recently referring more than eight doctors for prosecution.

The proposed committee will be formed upon a decision from the prime minister and will consist of several members: the minister of health or his deputy, the Doctors Syndicate head or his deputy, a president from a public university, a dean of medicine, and the chief of the Forensic Medicine Authority. According to the draft law, the committee may have branches in different governorates.

The committee will be responsible for determining whether or not there was malpractice, why it happened, and the resultant damages, as well as future professional hazards. It may also form sub-committees to provide technical expertise on a certain matters.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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