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PA House Passes Bill To Increase Penalties For Attacking Health Care Workers

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

“Because of the, at times, stressful nature of medical situations that patients find themselves in, infrequently – but too often – there can be times where it escalates to something more violent,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro used the example of a recent case, where an eastern Pennsylvania surgeon was attacked after losing an elderly patient in a high-risk surgery.

“The family member, I think it was the son of the patient who had a mental illness, showed up to the doctor’s office and shot him, and killed the physician,” Shapiro said.

Though most cases are less violent, Shapiro said any act of violence against a medical professional crosses the line.

According to the International Society of Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology, individual cases of violence against health care professionals by patients and their relatives are on the rise across the globe. On a larger scale, several hospitals in the Middle East run by Doctors Without Borders have been bombed in recent months.

The bill has been referred to the state Senate judiciary committee.