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Brazil: New Law Criminalizes Collateral Security for Emergency Medical Care

(June 5, 2012) On May 28, 2012, the Brazilian government promulgated Law No. 12,653, to prohibit the practice of asking for collateral security (cheque caução) or asking a patient to fill out administrative forms as a prior condition for providing emergency medical care in health care institutions. (Christina Machado, Exigir Cheque Caução para Atendimento Médico de Urgência Agora é Crime, AGÊNCIA BRASIL (May 29, 2012); Lei No. 12.653, de 28 de Maio de 2012, PLANALTO.GOV.BR.)

The Law was proposed by the Ministries of Health and Justice, after the Secretary of Human Resources of the Ministry of Planning died of a heart attack after seeking medical attention in two health care institutions that asked for collateral security. (Machado, supra.)

Law No. 12,653 amends the Brazilian Penal Code (Decreto-Lei No 2.848, de 7 de dezembro de 1940 – Código Penal, PLANALTO.GOV), so that such practices will be considered an omission of help (omissão de socorro), a crime punishable by up to a year in prison and the payment of a fine. The punishment is doubled if the refusal to provide medical care results in serious bodily harm and tripled if it causes death. (Machado, supra.)