Just had liposuction? MOH may be calling you soon

Some patients upset; MOH says confidentiality not compromised

PEOPLE who want to undergo liposuction to improve their looks must also agree to be interviewed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on the outcome of the procedure.

This requirement has both doctors and patients up in arms.

Meanwhile, the ministry told The Straits Times that it has interviewed more than 500 patients who have had aesthetic treatments, and "so far, MOH has not needed to proceed beyond the initial interview".

The ministry has been clamping down on aesthetic treatments recently. From March, all liposuction procedures have had to be done in hospitals or clinics approved for day surgery, removing two in three clinics that had been offering the service.

Liposuction has claimed two lives here, both people in their 40s who were otherwise healthy.

Also in March, the ministry announced that it would no longer approve applications from clinics to provide questionable treatments like whitening and some fat-busting jabs.

Those already offering these treatments have six months to publish their outcomes, failing which they have to stop.

One of the patients contacted, a woman in her early 40s who asked not to be named, said she had been "taken aback" by a call from the ministry. The caller had told her the details of her treatment before asking if she was happy with the outcome.

The clinic where she underwent treatment to uplift a saggy posterior had called to ask if it was all right for the MOH to contact her, and she had said "no". This was confirmed by her doctor.

She said she was so shocked at the call that she merely told the caller that she was very happy with the treatment. It was only after she had put the phone down that she got angry. She said: "I thought that information was confidential. Why does the MOH have to know what I had done?"

The ministry spokesman, however, said patient confidentiality is not compromised in having ministry officials know the details of treatments. Under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, the MOH can access medical records without patient consent, so long as it is for medical audits.

A letter from the ministry, dated May 11, to doctors providing aesthetic treatments said its audit found "inadequate clinical documentation" and "absence (of) or incomplete consent forms and feedback forms".

It told doctors to ensure that they get "a statement in the consent form that any consent given by the patient for the procedure shall include the patient's agreement to be contacted and interviewed by MOH authorised officers in order to assess the outcome of the procedure".

The MOH spokesman said this was not a new requirement, but aesthetic doctors contacted said this was the first they have heard of it. The letter, however, specified liposuction, or the removal of fat.

Dr David Loh, vice-president of the Society of Aesthetic Medicine, said: "Informed consent should be separate from consent to audit. And patients should have the right to refuse."

Dr Harold Ma, a general practitioner providing aesthetic treatment, said he had called the MOH to ask what would happen should a patient refuse to be audited by the ministry, and was told that if he proceeded with treatment, it would be at his "own risk".



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