Doctors can take steps to lessen risk of lawsuits

The Singapore Medical Council should make doctors take out insurance (Insurance for doctors here not required by law; June 19).

Doctors perform a necessary and invaluable function, and are always at risk of lawsuits.

They must be able to practise medicine with peace of mind and without worry about the risks of malpractice liability, especially as malpractice lawsuits are no longer based solely on medical errors but are becoming more about how patients feel they were treated.

More patients know their right to seek legal redress.

They expect good bedside manners, concern, kindness and respect. They are not interested in medical jargon, but want explanations they can understand.

Doctors should never compromise on building a positive relationship with their patients. Patients do not want to be treated in a rush. When a patient does not trust his doctor, he is more likely to consider a lawsuit when things go wrong.

Open and honest conversation between a doctor and his patient, including the patient's family, is vital in fostering a good doctor-patient relationship.

This also helps give the family members a good understanding of the care and procedures involved.

Doctors can also keep detailed records of the patients and ensure that informed consent is given. Perhaps patients can sign an arbitration agreement, too, so any lawsuit can be resolved in private arbitration.

The bottom line is that no doctor is immune to lawsuits. Developing positive relationships with their patients and ensuring good communication can go a long way towards reducing such risks.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Doctors can take steps to lessen risk of lawsuits'. Print Edition | Subscribe