The more complex and intricate a medical procedure, the more the patients must be apprised of each complication which may arise at every individual stage of the treatment process.
Even then, it is definite that only the most common and foreseeable adverse effects of treatment will be highlighted, as otherwise medical information overload can be confusing to the layman and adds no clarity to the final goal of treatment.
Take the case of Forum writer Toh Cheng Seong's father (Docs must point out major side effects; Jan 29).
He has the rare non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in the brain, which has an incidence rate of about 1 in 4000, and there is a whole plethora of treatment options - conservative watch and see, biopsy, biopsy excision, chemotherapy, intra-spinal chemotherapy, high dose chemotherapy, steroids, radiotherapy and a whole host of adjunctive supportive modes.
Each of these modalities carry multitudes of considerations, which when multiplied, obfuscate the path towards resolution of the problem for the patient and caregiver, rather than shine a light on the fight that lies ahead.
No matter how much Mr Toh thinks he has been informed of the potential side effects of his father's treatment, what he has been told is only a fraction of the possible outcomes.
Healthcare has unfortunately partially become a pecuniary venture, but doctors' adherence to the Hippocratic Oath should not be tenuous.
Where doctors have been deficient, sometimes unknowingly, and disciplined by the Singapore Medical Council, it is not so much a shaming process but more a sober learning experience for the whole medical fraternity.
Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)