Corrupt doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists and care workers could face up to five years in jail if found guilty of bribery, according to a new law being introduced by the German government. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet signed off on the anti-corruption plan presented by Justice Minister Heiko Maas.
“Corruption in the health system undermines the trust of patients in the integrity of decisions made by medical professionals,” Maas said. “Corruption limits competition and makes medical services more expensive.”
Some would say the law is long overdue – it comes in response to a ruling made three years ago by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in a case that caused no small outrage. Germany’s highest court overturned a conviction for a pharmaceutical firm representative who had written out checks of about 18,000 euros ($20,000) to doctors. These payments were part of the company’s incentive scheme, which awarded bonuses to doctors for prescribing certain drugs. This, the BGH ruled, did not count as corruption. The new law is specifically designed to tighten the controls on the cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and doctors.