**March 03, 2009
Thailand's new consumer protection law protects patients against medical malpractice
By Jon Fernquest

Thailand's new consumer protection laws also try to deal with medical malpractice among many other issues.

The new laws might be biting off more than they can chew and some feel they could have a negative effect on the healthcare system. Doctors may be afraid of running risks, so they may not treat patients.

Note that it is also worth comparing Thailand's problems with malpractice with similar problems in Japan. Thailand is not alone in the struggle to protect and help victims of malpractice. (Read articles on actual case, medical malpractice reporting, and prison sentences)

This is part two of a six part series.

(In photo on right family with a picture of their late mother who died after an operation to remove an inflamed appendix. The Nonthaburi provincial courtdecided in her favour in a malpractice lawsuit against the Public Health Ministry)

Here is today's article:

Consumer law bares its teeth
Now the aggrieved have a real chance of fighting for their rights
By Surasak Glahan

Case Study

Three years ago, Yenjit Sairat had surgery to remove a tumour on her uterus. But something went wrong and when she awoke from her operation there were two gaping holes in her bladder and she was completely incontinent.

She claims the surgeon at a private hospital accidentally sliced into her bladder during the operation in February 2006, and this is what brought about her urinary dysfunction. Ever since, she has been seeking damages from the hospital and the doctor for medical malpractice.

As a result of her condition she had to quit her job at a gas store and live on her husband's income. Additional costs of care and travel to various hospitals all came as new burdens.

"It makes me stressed and worried," Mrs Yenjit told the Foundation for Consumers. "Sometimes, it's so painful that I can't even sleep."

She earlier asked the hospital to pay for her costs and filed a complaint with the Medical Council of Thailand. But she received no response.

But in November last year she decided to try a new way of fighting for her rights by filing a consumer case against the hospital, with the foundation's support, demanding damages of 7.7 million baht. The case is now under mediation.

consumer protection laws - laws that try to protect consumers from being cheated by businesses กฎหมายคุ้มครองผู้บริโภค
medical malpractice - when a doctor injures a patient through a careless mistake, violation of medical standards (See Wikipedia) การปฏิบัติหน้าที่ด้วยความบกพร่อง
bite off more than you can chew - plan to do more than you can actually handle มีโครงการมากมายแต่ทำได้เพียงไม่กี่โครงการเท่านั้น
bares its teeth - showed that it can be effective and help people มีประโยชน์และเป็นการช่วยเหลือส่วนรวม
aggrieved - feel upset and angry because of bad treatment เคืองแค้น ไม่พอใจเพราะไม่ได้รับการรักษาที่ดี ที่เหมาะสม
a tumour - a solid thing (mass) growing inside your body เนื้องอก
uterus - the part of a woman where her baby grows (for nine months) มดลูก
gaping holes - very large holes หลุมขนาดใหญ่
urine - the liquid that you get rid of from your body in the toilet ปัสสาวะ
urinary - belonging to the parts of your body that urine flows through ระบบทางเดินปัสสาวะ
bladder - the sack in your body that stores urine before it leaves your body กระเพาะปัสสาวะ
incontinent - unable to prevent urine from coming out of your body (wet your pants) ไม่สามารถกลั้นปัสสาวะได้
a dysfunction - a condition that is not normal ทำงานผิดปกติ
urinary dysfunction - when something is not normal in your urinary system การทำงานผิดปกติของระบบทางเดินปัสสาวะ
seeking damages - asking the court of law to order the person who harmed you to pay you for the damage they caused you ฟ้องร้องเรียกค่าเสียหาย
stressed - feel worried and depressed because of difficulties in your life เครียด
a complaint - a legal statement charging a person with a criminal offense that sets out the facts on which the claim is based (can also mean an informal expression of displeasure, such as poor service at a store) คำร้องเรียน
filed a complaint - officially make a complaint at a government office ยื่นคำร้อง
rights - things that you should get according to the law or morals สิทธิ
fighting for her rights - in order to get what the law guarantees her, she has to fight for them (in a court of law, for example) ต่อสู้เพื่อสิทธิของตน
mediation - trying to solve a disagreement by finding things that both sides can agree to (a compromise) การเจรจาไกล่เกลี่ย
case is now under mediation - a person is trying to help the two sides in the disagreement reach an agreement คดีกำลังอยู่ในขั้นตอนการไกล่เกลี่ย

How the new law is different
Mrs Yenjit is among a growing number of victims of alleged medical malpractice who are filing consumer cases against doctors and hospitals since the Consumer Case Procedures Act of 2008 took effect last August.

The new law facilitates court procedures for consumers, including patients, which in the past were too complicated and time-consuming. Now they can file suit without hiring lawyers or paying the fees of bringing the case to court.

Under the new law, the burden of proof falls on doctors and hospitals, as the defendants, who are required to prove in court that the alleged malpractice was not a result of their negligence.

file consumer cases, file suit- when a person who claims to have suffered damage starts a legal case against those who damaged him or her ยื่นฟ้องร้อง
Consumer Case Procedures Act of 2008 - กฎหมายคุ้มครองผู้บริโภคปี 2551
facilitates - helps, aids, makes a task or job easier ช่วยเหลือ
complicated - has many parts, is dificult to understand ซับซ้อน
time-consuming - uses a lot of time, takes a long time to do กินเวลานาน
burden of proof - by law they must prove the facts มีหน้าที่ต้องแสดงหลักฐานต่อ
burden of proof falls on doctors and hospitals - by law doctors and hospitals must prove the facts แพทย์ต้องหาหลักฐานมายืนยันการทำงานของตนในกรณีที่ถูกกล่าวหาหรือฟ้องร้อง
alleged - claimed but not yet proven ที่กล่าวหา
negligence - when someone is not careful (and fails to do something they should have done) เพิกเฉย ไม่สนใจ

Statue of limitations
The act has specific provisions extending the statute of limitations which is useful for consumers who suffer damage to their health that may take a long time to result in symptoms.

It allows them to file cases within three years, extended from one year, from the date they first reported the malpractice. The court has the right to change its verdict, within 10 years, should previously unknown physical symptoms of the malpractice develop later.

specific - one thing (not a group of things in general) เฉพาะเจาะจง
provisions - the details of a law บทบัญญัติ
extending - making for a longer period of time ขยายเวลา
statue of limitations - the longest period of time allowed for trying a person for a crime (after this period of time cannot be tried) อายุความ
symptoms, physical symptoms - things that show that a person has a disease (signs, indications) อาการป่วย
a verdict - a decision by a court on a legal case คำพิพากษา

Helping patients quickly
The law requires courts to process cases swiftly and consumer activists believe this will help patients a great deal.

"In the past, it took as long as 17 years for a medical malpractice case to proceed," said Saree Aongsomwang, manager of the foundation.

Mrs Saree and her colleagues have mentored four other patients and their relatives in filing consumer cases against hospitals.

In one case in which a baby died during delivery, the mother was granted compensation of 400,000 baht after mediation. The foundation is preparing to help two more cases reach court.

May discourage doctors from treating people?
But the Medical Council, which earlier tried to exclude medical cases from the act's jurisdiction, is concerned that the law may discourage medical professionals from treating patients with serious conditions for fear of lawsuits.

If patients increasingly seek to file consumer cases against doctors and hospitals, the Medical Council believed the health care industry would suffer badly.

Even before the law, the number of court cases against private and public hospitals was already high. For example, in 2006-2007, 128 civil suits were filed against private hospitals, according to the Private Hospital Association.

Preeyanan Lorsermwattana, a leader of the Network of Victims of Medical Malpractice, said the network had about 500 members. A number of them have tried using the new law by filing cases, and some have agreed to accept compensation during the mediation process.

Mrs Preeyanan, who lost a civil lawsuit against a private hospital due to the expiry of the statute of limitations, said the time extension was a good thing but in reality case procedures were still slow and lawyers might still be a crucial element.

"If it wasn't necessary patients would never want to file cases against doctors. But we have found most medical malpractice is preventable," she said.

exclude - not include ไม่รวมเข้ากับ
the act's jurisdiction - the cases or area within the country that the law is used ในเขตอำนาจศาล
a lawsuit - a case in a court of law between two or more people or organizations คดี
accept compensation during the mediation process - reaching an agreement after discussions and accepting some money ยอมจ่ายค่าเสียหายให้กับโจทก์
expiry - the time when something comes to an end หมดอายุ
expiry of the statue of limitations - the end of the period where legal action can be taken on a case หมดอายุความ
extension - increasing the time something is active ยืดเวลาออกไป ถ่วงเวลา ซื้อเวลา
a crucial element - an important and necessary part ส่วนที่สำััคัญที่สุด หัวใจสำคัญ

(Source: Bangkok Post, general news, 3/03/2009, Consumer law bares its teeth, Surasak Glahan, link)

Posted by Jon Fernquest at 07:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


March 02, 2009
Thailand's new consumer protection laws
Six months later, toothless
By Jon Fernquest Thailand's new consumer protection laws have been in place for six months (Read article on new laws).

The new laws were supposed to make filing consumer cases easier. See flowchart below:

Consumer lawsuits against insurance companies and for telecommunications contract violations and medical malpractice are among the most frequent kinds of lawsuits (Read article on medical malpractice in Thailand).

Application of the new law has not been as easy as many had hoped.

In theory, the new law makes it easy for consumers to get redress for wrongs done to them.

In practice, it is a lot more difficult:

The law allows them to file cases themselves by submitting either a verbal or written account at a court where they will get help from officials to draft a complaint.

No lawyer is required and there are no fees. The burden of proof of fault or negligence by business operators falls on the defendants while consumers only need to prove injuries or damages.

But in many cases consumers have been told in court to prove wrongdoing by the defendant and collect related evidence...

An example is those seeking damages from an insurance company had to prove the company transferred its assets to other bodies. They were also told to present a copy of the company's business registration. Such things are not easy for individuals to establish...

...In many provinces, courts simply rejected consumer cases. Some told consumers to get a lawyer, and some said they had no one handling this type of court procedure...There are not enough court officials to handle consumer cases. Only one official is tasked with consumer cases in each court...

...an increasing number of people had shown up at court trying to file consumer suits. But most failed to establish the facts required by law.

For example, they did not know whether their legal rights were violated or could not say what kind of damage they had suffered.

Consumers filing complaints often have to participate in a long series of time-consuming mediation conferences with protracted negotiations, perhaps used as a stalling tactic.
The cost of gaining redress for damages may well become greater than the damage done.

American style class action lawsuits where many consumers join together, hire a lawyer, and jointly seek redress, might be more effective than individual consumers seeking redress themselves.

If consumers make their negative experiences public in blogs, online comments, or letters to the editor this could prevent consumers falling into the same trap. The negative publicity might also shame the company into changing its business practices. A letter published in the Sunday edition of the Bangkok Post is a good example:

Ask any member of the "six-star" Paragon California WOW gym why the company is finding it tough and I am sure you will get a punching bag full of reasons.

Once the aggressive sales team has done with their spin, members are left to contend with a slew of miserable conditions including poor air-conditioning, turned-off drinking water outlets, cramped conditions from over-selling, broken equipment and more.

In the latest move to save costs, the company announced that, in an effort to do their bit against global warming, small towels used by members to keep the equipment dry and clean during training sessions would no longer be available. As a result, and with cleaning staff failing to keep the equipment clean, the gym and its change rooms are in serious danger of becoming a health hazard...

The reality is that the company sells a promise that it has no possibility of honouring. Lifetime memberships are sold for anything between 10,000 to 20,000 baht in the hope that the churn rate (members who no longer attend the gym for whatever reason) keeps the number of people using the gym at any one time manageable, whilst generating cash to keep the company profitable in the short term

(Source: Bangkok Post, Post Bag, 01-03-09, link)

(Source: Bangkok Post, general news, 2/03/09, Surasak Glahan, BUYER BEWARE: Consumers get their day in court, link)

consumer protection laws - laws that try to protect consumers from being cheated by businesses กฎหมายคุ้มครองผู้บริโภค
toothless - ineffective, have no power to get the job done (See glossary) ไม่มีผลบังคับใช้
file cases, file complaints - when a person who claims to have suffered damage starts a legal case against those who damaged him or her ยื่นฟ้องร้อง
a flowchart - a diagram that shows the sequence of actions in an activity or process ตาราง / แผนภูมิ
in place - existing, being used ที่มีใช้อยู่
lawsuits - a case in a court of law involving two sides (people or organizations) คดีความ
telecommunications - communication using a telephone network (includes mobile phones and broadband internet) ระบบโทรคมนาคม
medical malpractice - when a doctor injures a patient through a careless mistake, violation of medical standards (See Wikipedia) การปฏิบัติหน้าที่ด้วยความบกพร่อง
in theory - what should happen (if it works as planned) ทางทฤษฎี หมายถึงสิ่งที่ควรจะเกิดขึ้นแต่เป็นไปไม่ได้
in practice - what actually happens (with existing real world constraints) ในทางปฏิบัติ
redress, redress for a wrong - do something to improve the situation for a person who has suffered from ill-treatment การชดใช้ การชดเชย
gain redress for damages - have your situation improved after suffering damage from someone อาการดีขึ้น
jointly seek redress - when a group of people together seeks redress for a wrong done to them ร่วมกันฟ้องร้องค่าเสียหาย ค่าชดเชย
an account - a written or spoken report describing an event บันทึก
a verbal account - a spoken report describing an event ตามคำบอก
a complaint - a legal statement charging a person with a criminal offense that sets out the facts on which the claim is based (can also mean an informal expression of displeasure, such as poor service at a store) คำร้องเรียน
draft a complaint - write a complaint ร่างคำร้อง
prove - show that something is true by using evidence and argument มีหลักฐานพิสูจน์
proof - a fact, argument, or evidence that shows that something is true ข้อพิสูจน์
evidence - information used in a court of law to prove something หลักฐาน
a fact - some statement that is correct ข้อเท็จจริง
burden of proof on Y - in the legal case Y must provide proof to defend themselves เป็นหน้าที่ของ ....ที่จะต้องหาหลักฐานมาพิสูจน์
burden of proof falls on defendants - the defendants accused in the case have to provide evidence to defend themselves (else they are guilty) จำเลยในคดีต้องหาหลักฐานมาแสดงเพื่อยืนยันความบริสุทธิ์
fault - an error, a mistake, something done wrongly or incorrectly ความผิดพลาด
negligence - be careless and fail to do something you should do (fail to follow standards) ความบกพร่องในหน้าที่
business registration - the official government document giving legal permission to do business การจดทะเบียนบริษัท
tasked with - given a task or job to do ได้รับมอบหมายงานหรือหน้าที่
establish the facts - show that certain things happened and that the consumer was damaged แสดงข้อเท็จจริงที่เกิดขึ้น
failed to establish the facts - did not prove the facts ไม่สามารถพิสูจน์แย้งได้
time-consuming - uses a large amount of time ใช้เวลานาน กินระยะเวลายาวนาน
participate in - join in and become a part of an activity มีส่วนร่วมในกิจกรรม
mediation - trying to solve a disagreement by finding things that both sides can agree to (a compromise) การเจรจาไกล่เกลี่ย
mediation conferences - a meeting to help two sides solve their disagreement การพบกันเพื่อเจรจาไกล่เกลี่ย
negotiations - formal discussions between two groups to reach an agreementการต่อรอง
protracted negotiations - negotiations that go on for a long, long time ข้อโต้แย้งที่มีมานานแล้ว
tactic - methods chosen to achieve goals and results in a given situation กลเม็ด วิธีการในการแก้สถานการณ์
stalling - try to avoid doing anything until later เลี่ยง ผลัดผ่อน
stalling tactic - try to avoid doing anything, to drag the whole the whole affair out, so the other side will give up, you win ใช้วิธีการผลัดผ่อน
class action lawsuits - a lawsuit where a large group of people together seek redress for damages done to them (See Wikipedia) คดีมวลชน
letters to the editor - letters sent to a publication about issues of concern to its readers, that are then published in the publication for others to read, blog comments are the modern equivalent (See Wikipedia) จดหมายถึงบรรณาธิการ
a punching bag - 1. a bag that boxers punch while they are training, 2. anything that undergoes a lot of punishment and abuse (See Wikipedia) กระสอบทราย ถูกกล่าวหาด้วยขอหามากมาย
aggressive - forceful, determined, and eager to succeed (note: often negative meaning) (See glossary) กร้าวร้าว
spin - present information in a special way, usually to make the bad seem good (See glossary) แต่งคดี แต่งขอเท็จจริงให้ดูดี น่้าเชื่อถือ
contend with Y - deal with problem Y, overcome Y
a slew of - a very large number of จำนวนมาก
miserable conditions - bad conditions (that make a person unhappy even to think about) สภาพย่ำแย่
cramped - crowded, not a lot of room to move around in แน่นขนัด
honour a promise - do what you promised to do ทำตามคำสัญญา
a promise that it has no possibility of honouring - impossible for them to do what they promised ไม่มีทางทำตามคำสัญญา
churn - when customers stop using a particular make of goods or services or change to another เิลิกใช้สินค้า
churn rate - how fast people are stopping their use of a good or service การเลิกใช้สินค้าบริการขยายเป็นวงกว้างอย่างรวดเร็ว

Posted by Jon Fernquest at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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