Doctors not expected to inform patients of all complications: SMC, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Doctors not expected to inform patients of all complications: SMC

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Doctors are not expected to inform patients of all possible complications, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said yesterday.

It follows concerns raised last week after a private orthopaedic doctor was fined $100,000 for not telling his patient about possible side effects from a commonly used injection he gave her.

The council also said the decision by the disciplinary tribunal did not mean that doctors must take written consent for every minor treatment or procedure.

"The decision merely reminds doctors that they should document the fact that they have explained the treatment or procedure and the patient's consent," said the SMC in the statement.

The doctor who was fined, Dr Lim Lian Arn, had given his patient an H&L steroid injection for pain in her left wrist.

He did not tell her of the possible side effects of the injection but had not actively recommended the treatment.

The injection can cause a patient to experience increased pain and inflammation in the area injected that can be worse than the pain and inflammation caused by the condition being treated.

More than 4,000 people, mostly doctors, later signed a petition to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong following the ruling, concerned that the ruling could change the way medicine is practised here by imposing a significant extra burden on doctors.

SMC yesterday said the court clarified that an "information dump" would not be appropriate, and that "a reasonable patient would not need or want to know and understand every iota of information before deciding whether to undergo a proposed treatment".

The disciplinary tribunal appreciated that it was "in fact not common" to take specific written consent for an H&L injection, and is not mandating such a practice.

But the tribunal said that it would be good clinical practice to document in the case notes that a patient had been informed and was agreeable to the injection - "a proposition which no doctor would reasonably disagree with", said SMC.

Dr Lim had admitted that he had not advised the patient of any possible complications, said SMC.

Dr Tho Kam San, who started the petition, told The Straits Times that he respects the SMC's decision and was glad to note that doctors would not face the expectation to inform their patients of every possible complication.