Ecuador’s doctors are reacting with cautious optimism to an agreement reached Thursday between the government and the national medical association about new malpractice rules contained in the country’s new penal code.

The new code was enacted Tuesday by the National Assembly and goes into affect in six months.

In the agreement, doctors agreed to let the National Court of Justice (CNJ) review Article 146 of the penal code which, in some cases, criminalizes a physician’s actions if a patient dies during medical treatment. The doctors say the language is vague and could penalize doctors for making honest mistakes when treating patients.

In some cases, according Article 146, a doctor could be imprisoned for up to five years.

The controversial language refers to "unnecessary, dangerous and illegitimate actions."

In the negotiation, both the government and doctors agreed to let the court clarify the language. According to court president Gustavo Jalkh, the CNJ will spell out, in detail, when criminal charges can be brought and, based on his comments, the circumstances for such charges would require high degree of fault.

Following the agreement, doctors called off a protest march scheduled for Tuesday in Quito.

More than 200 hundred doctors at public hospitals have resigned because of Article 146. According to Thursday’s agreement, they would have the option of returning to their jobs.


High Tides cause coastal damage and erosion

Severe damage has been reported in all of Ecuador’s coastal provinces due to heavy wave action and high tiedes. The worst damage has been reported in Manabi, Santa Elena and El Oro Provinces. The coast has experienced a series of large storms since early January.

More than two dozen houses and fishing shacks were destroyed in Manabi Province, with Crucita, Los Ranchos and the Manta areas reporting the most structural damage. In El Oro Province, at least 11 houses have been destroyed on two barrier islands.

Fishermen say that a number of boats have been destroyed or damaged.

Authorities report that servere beach erosion in several areas poses a long-term problem. They say hundreds of houses and buildings could be destroyed in future storms.

The Ecuadorian coast is especially prone to beach erosion and the environmental agencies that monitor the situation say that new building set-backs are required to minimize future damage. Authorities say that more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed since the late 1980s due to storm damage and erosion, 400 of them in Crucita, Montañita and Salinas.

 
Government fines newspaper for 'offensive' cartoon

Ecuador's media oversight agency fined the newspaper El Universo for a cartoon it published about prosecutors' Dec. 27 search of the home of a journalist who has since left the country, authorities said Friday.

The agency also said Xavier Bonilla has 72 hours to "correct" his cartoon, which portrays soldiers slamming a door down onto Fernando Villavicencio and hauling computers and boxes of files from his home. Villavicencio investigates oil industry corruption and President Rafael Correa's administration said he illegally obtained emails from Correa's account.

The oversight agency said the cartoon "did not correspond to reality." It fined El Universo two percent of its revenues from the last three months. The oversight agency is dominated by Correa loyalists.

Bonilla, who is known simply as Bonil, said "I had to take the resolution with a bit of water to not choke on it."

Officials of the newspaper could immediately be reached for comment.

Correa has maintained tense relations with Ecuador's news media since he was elected, accusing it of being part of the political opposition.

Photo caption: Doctors protested Monday in Quito.