Traditionally, when a male doctor examines a female patient, there should be a chaperone (a third party) around to ensure there is no misconduct. Similarly, a male nurse would not attend to a female patient alone in a room.
When a male medical staff attends to a male patient, we do not routinely ask for a chaperone.
But the case of a male nurse accused of molesting a male patient would change the medical landscape (Male nurse on trial for allegedly molesting male patient, Feb 23).
In a consultation or patient room, there would usually be only the patient and a medical employee. Should the patient make an accusation of any form of misconduct, it would be difficult to ascertain if the complaint were true.
There are two possible solutions.
First, medical staff should no longer attend to any patient alone, regardless of the gender of the patient. This requires having more nurses or nursing aides to act as chaperones.
Second, we could install security cameras in all patient and consultation rooms. There could be a curtained area that is a blind spot, where patients can have privacy without being filmed.
Interactions between patients and medical staff are all recorded. Any accusations from patients can be easily investigated.
It is time that all stakeholders - patients, healthcare institutions, medical staff, the Ministry of Health - consider the best options to prevent future similar disputes.
Desmond Wai (Dr)