Attack on Female Surgeon in Jordan Shines Light on Growing Problem
Social media post by Dr. Rawan Sami elicits great sympathy and understanding for her, and for rest of country’s medical community
An attack on a female physician in Jordan on Friday has elicited widespread demands on social media sites for the attacker to be held accountable under the law.
Although not the first of its kind in the kingdom, the incident, involving Dr. Rawan Sami, was remarkable because such attacks are usually aimed at male doctors.
Sami, a surgical resident, suffered a broken nose and facial injuries requiring hospitalization when she was attacked by a relative of a patient for whom a bed was reportedly unavailable. She described the incident on her Facebook page, mentioning her journey as a medical student and how she felt as a female coming under attack. She concluded with an appeal for redress not only to legal authorities, but to King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania.
Yehya al-Saoud, a Jordanian lawmaker, told The Media Line that the legal system in Jordan was not a deterrent. For example, if a doctor is assaulted, the attacker can be targeted only with a civil lawsuit.
“We are demanding real legislation that would enable the state to pursue the suit even in cases of reconciliation between the victim and the attacker,” Saoud said, stressing that the country’s parliament was working on legislation that would make such attacks a criminal act.
Activists point toward a lack of legal follow-up in the Ministry of Health in cases of assaults on physicians, urging that it take legal action against the attacker regardless of the actions taken by the victim.
Newly appointed Interior Minister Salameh Hammad stated during a meeting with the parliamentary health committee on Monday that the attacker had been arrested and legal procedures were under way. He also announced that the cabinet would take next year’s Health Ministry budget into account to allow cooperation with the General Security and Gendarmerie departments for the protection of hospitals and their employees.
Since 2009, Amman has been addressing legislation to deal with the phenomenon of attacks against medical personnel.
Such attacks have long been considered disputes among citizens. This has caused widespread frustration among the country’s doctors and other personnel working in the medical profession, resulting in numerous appeals to the government by medical employee unions, including the Jordanian Medical Association.
Current legislation calls for a sentence ranging from six months to three years for anyone who assaults a medical employee during working hours.
Sami’s Facebook post, published the night after the incident, resulted in more than 20,000 likes and more than 3,000 shares. A large number of people left comments that were dominated by sympathy and solidarity.
Eyad Abu Baker, a Palestinian social researcher affiliated with the Al-Quds Open University, told The Media Line that attacks on medical personnel reflect not only a lack of trust in the country’s medical system, but in the way a doctor “approaches the family during the provision of treatment.”
Abu Baker explained that feelings and emotions can run rampant, especially in situations involving death.
“Those accompanying a patient sometimes can’t deal with the shock,” he explained. “They act based on how they think the doctor should deal with the situation.”
He added that such attacks must be studied as they share unique psychological attributes.
Jordan’s Ministry of Health has documented about 600 attacks on physicians since 2010. The Jordanian Doctors Union says that 106 such incidents were recorded between 2016 and 2018 alone.