Malpractice – Lagos Doctors Promote Patients’ Rights

SUCCOUR has come the way of patients who may have suffered unduly in the hands of Nigerian medical professionals at one time or the other as medical doctors under the auspices of the Lagos State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association; NMA, last week say patients right must not be trample upon.

Speaking in Lagos during the Association’s Annual Conference with the theme: “Litigation in Medical Practice and Emerging Trend”, the doctors acknowledged that rights of patients which include right to consent, confidentiality among others, have suffered unduly due to patients’ inability to reocognise them.

“It is no longer business as usual as the national body of the profession is working assiduously to upgrade the laws to the present state of things so that patients are well taken care of; and are given the best of care in the current medical practice,” said Chairman, Lagos State NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile who lamented that many of the laws guiding medical profession in Nigeria date back as far back as 1940s and 1960s.

Faduyile who stated that the theme of the conference was chosen as people are becoming more aware and the world is also becoming a global village said: “We want to get it right and also to let the public know that they have a right for good treatment by their doctors, also, for the doctors to be aware of the new ways of doing things. Rights of patients should be respected.

“We are saying let us start the process of doing things according to the dictates of the law so that we will not run afoul of any of the codes of the medical profession.”

Faduyile urged patients not to resign to fate whenever they feel their rights have been trampled upon. “We are telling patients to be aware of their rights and to know the appropriate way to seek redress. If your right has been breached you should also know where to report. It is not good to go to your house and resign to your fate.”

He said patients have the Right of Confidentiality, Right of Consent and to determine the extent of how the treatment should be given as well as to know what the doctor wants to do or is doing. He urged those with genuine cases to report to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, a body set to be in the level of high court to attend to medical cases.

Guest Lecturer, a Consultant Mental Health Physician, Dr. Adegboyega Ogunwale from the Federal Neuro-psychiatric Teaching Hospital, Abeokuta, said the time had come for doctors to respect the rights of patients as well as realize that they cannot continue to give treatment to their clients without informing them about the dangers and risks involved.

“It is critical to understand the burden of duty that when a doctor assumes a duty of care, he should discharge that duty following the standard, the décor, the methods that are generally acceptable within our own responsible body of medical personnel and within society at large.”

Ogunwale, also a specialist in medical law, said in the face of increasing litigations from aggrieved patients, anyone can seek redress if their rights, are infringed upon by medical personnel. He said a patient cannot not only sue when it involves death or malpractice, but can hold a doctor liable for any treatment given in a rude or insolent manner in any hospital.

“A doctor must seek written consent from a patient before some operations that will lead to irreversible changes, or consequences in his life, are carried out. For example, if surgery may lead to fracture or loss of an organ, the patient must be told and must have a written consent. If it is not an emergency, the law says you must have counselled the patient, at least four times, before you seek his or her consent. The patient must have agreed without coercion.”

Key of theme of the conference was to ensure that practitioners conform to the standards in décor and those things that are acceptable within professionals own responsible body opinion. Ogunwale stated that understanding the décor would help reduce the risk of litigation to barest minimum.

“There are many times when a patient is unclear about an issue. The first thing is to raise the issue with the doctor because raising a legal contest to every matter will lead unduly to what we call defensive practice and the patient at the end would not get the best of care,” he added.

Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Femi Olugbile said providing services to patients is no way a favour to the patient, but rather an entitlement. The state government has established a Service Charter which spells out the order of services and the period to be delivered after which, if not given, the client can complain or seek redress.