Patient autonomy in audits: MOH replies

THE Ministry of Health (MOH) thanks the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) for its feedback ("Patient autonomy key part of medical ethics"; June 4).

As SMA president Wong Tien Hua said, MOH has powers under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act to audit any patient's clinical outcomes, should the need arise.

Our medical audits enable MOH to monitor and uphold the high quality of care and safety of aesthetic procedures performed in Singapore.

Our intent in including this information in the consent template for medical practitioners and healthcare institutions is to give patients the opportunity to be informed of and to agree to participate in MOH's medical audits before they undergo aesthetic procedures.

In this way, situations whereby patients are surprised when they are contacted after undergoing the procedure are avoided.

Dr Wong's letter might have given the impression that the patient must consent to participate in the audit for the treatment to proceed. This is not so. The patient's autonomy is not compromised in this process: Should the patient not agree to participate in any future audit of his aesthetic procedure, neither the patient nor the doctor is prohibited from undergoing or performing the procedure, respectively.

Before they undergo any aesthetic procedure, we urge the public to exercise due caution by ascertaining that the medical practitioners and healthcare institutions consulted are properly licensed and accredited to perform the desired procedures and treatments.

When in doubt, they should seek a second opinion from their regular family physician or other qualified medical practitioners.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)

Director

Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Patient autonomy in audits: MOH replies'. Print Edition | Subscribe