Barring any unforeseen hiccups and presidential assent huddles, a law seeking to increase penalty for quackery in the medical profession is underway in the House of Representatives.
Sponsored by Hon. Dozie Ferdinand Nwankwo, the bill, which passed second reading on the floor of the House, Thursday, seeks to amend the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act.
If passed into law, the legislation automatically increases the penalty for quackery from N5,000 to N1 million and N10,000 to N10 million respectively and also increase offenders’ jail term to either five or 10 years depending on the severity.
Leading debate on the general principles of the Bill, the lawmaker told his colleagues that the purpose is to amend the provisions of Section 17(5) (a) and (b) of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, by increasing the punishment prescribed for offenders.
Section 17(5) (a) and (b) of the Act prescribed punishments of fines between N5,000 only and N10,000 only against the practice of quackery and others.
He said that the amendment sought to bring the punishment prescribed in the Act to conform to the present day realities.
“This bill seeks to upgrade the punishment of offenders as provided for under Section 17(5) (a) and (b) of the Act by increasing the fines and terms of imprisonment to at least N1,000,000 and five years imprisonment and N5,000,000 and 10 years imprisonment respectively as punishment for the offences provided for under Section 17 of the Act,” he said.
He argued further that no punishment could be severe enough to punish quackery, adding that by increasing the punishment, it would send a strong message to others to desist from such act.
“The truth of the matter is that no punishment can be severe enough to punish quackery in the medical and dental profession. While it is often said that lawyers’ mistakes end up in prison, doctors mistake end up in the graveyard.
“The consequences of quackery are oftentimes irremediable. A situation where punishments provided for under the Act provides for fine as low as N5,000, N10,000 is indeed one begging for a review.
“By the passage of this bill, increasing the punishment prescribed under Section 17 (5) (a) and (b) of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M8 LFN 2004, this Honourable House will be sending a very strong message that acts of quackery where medical practice is misrepresented can no longer be condoned. The lives of our country men and women remain sacrosanct and everything should be done to preserve and legislate avoidable deaths out of existence,” Nwankwo argued.
In the Act, those who are not medical practitioners, but used the title of physician, surgeon, doctor or licentiate of medicine for or in expectation of reward and also if the registrar or any other person employed by the council willfully makes any falsification in any matter relating to the register shall be guilty of an offence under the section.
The bill was read the second time and referred to the House Committee on Healthcare Services for further legislative action.