Include patient input in review of informed consent

Posed photo of a doctor with a stethoscope.
Posed photo of a doctor with a stethoscope.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Health's (MOH) decision to conduct a thorough review of how much information doctors are required to tell patients before treating them is timely (MOH conducting thorough review of informed consent, March 3), given the uproar in the medical profession over the Singapore Medical Council disciplinary tribunal decision to fine an orthopaedic surgeon.

However, consulting doctors in public and private practice is only part of the picture.

Input from patients is just as important, but there is no indication that MOH will be seeking feedback from patients as part of its review.

Not involving patients will mean a review that is less than thorough.

This is because informed consent is an interactive process between a doctor and a patient, where a patient gains an understanding of his condition and receives an explanation of the options available so that he is in a position to make an informed decision about his care and treatment.

Confining the consultation to doctors is likely to skew MOH's position on informed consent and whatever informed consent guidelines that are ultimately devised.

This is hardly a desirable outcome and is contrary to the idea of working in partnership with patients.

Guidelines that do not reflect the needs and experiences of patients are also likely to reinforce the public's perception that the medical profession in Singapore is paternalistic and protective of its own kind.

If healthcare in Singapore is to be patient-centred, then I hope that MOH engages patients of different backgrounds in their review.

Along with being transparent and accountable, it would foster greater buy-in of the revised guidelines as well as public trust and confidence in MOH and doctors, which would be a win-win for all.

Petra Young (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Include patient input in review of informed consent'. Print Edition | Subscribe