• 1 Ministry of Health, Malaysia
Med. J. Malaysia, 2003 Mar;58 Suppl A:9-18.
PMID: 14556346


When a doctor is required to go to court, he does so with some amount of trepidation. The degree of trepidation increases in direct proportion as to whether he is required to be a witness or a defendant. The practice of medicine on the other hand requires the patient to have full confidence and open out his secrets to the doctor. If you hold back vital information, the diagnosis may be entirely different to the disease that you have. Lawyers who enter hospitals may also do so with some trepidation, maybe even more so than doctors who enter courts, as their lives are at stake. There is a perception that medico-legal matters are on the rise. We may put forward a few reasons for this: 1. A better educated and increasingly assertive public with greater awareness of the medical and legal systems; 2. Rising expectations of medical results; 3. Commercialization of medical care with erosion of the doctor-patient trust relationship. This paper will discuss the reasons for and the ways to address medical errors as well as explore the reasons for defensive medicine. The argument is put forward that public education programs on the risks inherent in some of the new advances in treatment modalities and surgery and professional education programs on the need for obtaining the patient's informed consent to such treatment is needed. Public advocacy programs to demonstrate the problems in medicine and the delivery of health care resulting from strict cost containment limitations should be carried out. There is also the need to enhance the level and quality of medical education for all physicians, including improved clinical training experiences. Doctors' must manage their clinical affairs in a professional manner without being dictated to by the legal system. However, it would be wise to take note of the views expressed by learned counsel and judges in their courts. The middle road is always the best and we must never be extreme in our viewpoints. We must always remember the patient is why we are here and the patient must never suffer in the process while we formulate our responses to the medico-legal challenges that lie ahead.

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