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Reps move to ensure treatment for gunshot victims without police report

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SUCCOUR is underway for gunshot victims as the House of Representatives has begun moves to tinker with a proposed legislation which, when it becomes law, would compel hospitals to treat and provide medical care without necessarily obtaining a police report.

 This is coming following last Thursday’s adoption by the House, the report on a Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot and Other Matters Connected Therewith.

 The report, which was passed and adopted at the Committee of the Whole of the Chamber, is sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nkiruka Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia).

 Giving insight on the bill during the committee sitting, Onyejeocha in her Executive Summary told the parliament that: “the issue of conditional access to medication by victims of gunshot in Nigeria has generated thorny arguments among scholars, policy makers, medical practitioners and the general public.”

 “The central thesis of the argument from all sides revolves around the issue of saving lives vi’s-avis the provision of the extant law.”

 She stressed that the misinterpretation of the provision of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act, Cap 398 of 1984 has been largely responsible for the refusal of medical practitioners to attend to gunshot victims which often time leads to loss of innocent lives.

 Onyejeocha noted that the bill if passed into law will among other things guarantee unrestricted access to medical services by victims of gunshots; as well as further strengthen legal provisions and guarantee peoples’ fundamental rights to life and dignity of their persons.

 Expressing dismay, the lawmaker stated that: “despite the Act providing that, it shall be the duty of any person, hospital or clinic that admits, treats or administers drug to any person suspected of having bullet wounds to immediately report the matter to the police, medical institutions in Nigeria have severally refused to attend to victims of gunshot requesting such victims to produce police report.

 She submitted that “The refusal of hospitals and other medical facilities to attend to gunshot victims amounts to a negation of the fundamental human rights of those victims to life as enshrined in the relevant sections of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

 The 18 clause-legislation which covers basically all aspects of gunshot injuries and the circumstances thereto if signed into law will make it mandatory for medical facilities to attend to individuals with such injuries without recourse to police report or approval for the purpose of saving lives and forestalling avoidable deaths –whilst making immediate notification to the police regarding such cases.

Clause 1 of the bill which deals with the right to treatment states that: “As from the commencement of this Bill, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive for immediate and adequate treatment with or without clearance any person with a gunshot wound.”

Onyejeocha stressed that “the refusal to treat victims of gunshot also amounts to a negation of the ethics and oath of the medical profession (to save lives) which practitioners swore to keep.”

She added that, hospitals denying the provision of medical care and attention to gunshot victims until police report is produced, as practiced in Nigeria is not supported by cross-country experiences in places such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

On notification of police, clause 4 states that: “It shall be the duty of any hospital that receives any person with gunshot wound to report to the nearest police within two (2) hours of commencement of treatment.”

Clauses 5 and 6 of the bill empower the police to immediately commence investigation into the circumstances surrounding the gunshot upon receipt of a report from the hospital authority; and must not take the victim away from the facility until it is certified by the Chief Medical Director of the hospital that the victim is fit enough to leave and in no further need of medicare.

While clause 7 of the Bill puts a penalty of 6 months imprisonment for doctors who fail to notify the police of such cases and a fine of N100, 000 (a hundred thousand naira) on any erring hospital, clause 9 recommends 5 years imprisonment with a N50, 000 (Fifty Thousand) fine on anyone who willfully withholds information from the police.

 



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