Make clear identity verification process

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) should clarify its stance on the identity verification process of family members by doctors (NUH doc fined for sharing patient's info, March 7).

In our society, healthcare decisions are often made with the involvement of family members, especially in the case of elderly people.

Many patients rely on the care, input and even finances of their family members.

To this end, in the course of daily clinical practice, both senior and junior doctors are called upon to update the relatives of patients, both in person and over the telephone, regarding their loved one's condition and medical care.

The SMC's recent ruling will all but abolish this practice, as it is impossible to verify an individual's identity over the phone, or even in person, without birth or marriage certificates.

In addition, how are doctors expected to determine whether a family member is on "good terms" with the patient?

This is further complicated in situations where the patient is uncommunicative or of unsound mind due to the ravages of disease or age, or under anaesthesia in the operating theatre, and is, thus, unable to give explicit consent.

In this case, the SMC must explain to the general public why they should no longer receive updates on, or be able to participate in, their loved one's medical care.

Tung Kean Hin (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Make clear identity verification process'. Print Edition | Subscribe