SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) will review the taking of informed consent by doctors as well as the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) disciplinary process, it said in a press release on Saturday (Mar 2).
The ministry will form a workgroup to undertake a comprehensive review and make appropriate recommendations, it added.
This was announced by Senior Minister of State for Health and Law Edwin Tong at the SMC’s Physician’s Pledge Affirmation Ceremony.
It comes on the back of a recent controversy when a S$100,000 fine was imposed on an orthopaedic surgeon for failing to obtain informed consent before giving a patient an injection.
More than 4,000 doctors had signed a petition over SMC’s disciplinary ruling, asking the health minister to examine the decision and clarify its stance on the need for doctors to obtain informed consent for minor procedures such as routine injections.
On Feb 20, MOH said it asked SMC to apply to court to have its decision reviewed.
In the press release on Saturday, the ministry said that it was concerned that a lack of clarity on appropriate informed consent could lead to the practice of "defensive medicine”, which it said would give rise to increased healthcare costs and "adversely affect patient safety and welfare".
In order to provide guidance to doctors, the workgroup will also review the legal position and the practical aspects of taking informed consent, MOH said.
It added that SMC’s regulatory processes and systems will be reviewed, with a view to improve upon the regulatory regime for medical practitioners.
The workgroup, which comprises of other medical and legal professionals and laypersons, will also engage members of the public in evaluating issues.
MOH has sought the support of the Singapore Medical Association, Academy of Medicine and College of Family Physicians Singapore to form the workgroup.
In a joint statement on Saturday, the three institutions said it supported MOH’s decision.
"The mission of this workgroup in establishing a framework to offer further guidance is to eliminate ambiguity in the consent taking standards so that the resultant practical difficulties facing doctors over consent taking for medical procedures may be resolved," the statement read.
“The study of the disciplinary process with the view to recommend changes to it is timely and necessary for us to keep up with the relevant norms of medical practice."