|Dr. Arun Mishra, the highly esteemed Medico-legal expert of India who is associated with LegalMD, on 15 July, 2018 delivered a lecture on “Common Mistakes observed in Medico-legal Cases” at LEGACON 2018.
It was organized at B.T. Savani Hospital, Rajkot & was attended by the members of Association of Surgeons of Rajkot and turned out to be a huge success.
MEDICO-LEGAL ISSUES AND ROLE OF
If you are involved in a medical negligence issue, there are people looking for anything they can find on you, and finding it by means of social media is becoming a common practice. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of these issues to avoid exposure to liability. These medico-legal issues can arise at the onset, during, and at discharge of care and create several duties.
Media scrutiny of you and your practice of medicine could put your personal and professional reputation at risk. As social media now plays a key role in patients’ daily lives and how they interact, it also poses a range of emerging medico-legal threats for medical professionals.
Some medico-legal cases might be considered newsworthy but generally news reports are often based on the statement of claim, they rarely portray the events from the perspective of the physician. It can be frustrating and distressing to be criticised in the media, particularly when it includes inaccurate or misleading information but this does not relieve you of your duty to respect the confidentiality of patients and former patients.
It stresses that you ‘must not put information you have learned in confidence about a patient in the public domain without that patient’s explicit consent. You should usually limit your public response to an explanation of your legal and professional duty of confidentiality.’
The media can be quite inventive in the manner in which they contact you and this may come in a variety of forms.
• By email or phone
• Through social media, eg, posting a comment or question
• Arriving at your home or place of work
• Through colleagues, friends or family members.
PHOTOGRAPHERS AND CAMERA CREWS
You might be confronted with a camera crew or photographer outside your home, place of work or court/hearing if you are facing regulatory or legal proceedings. Here is some advice on dealing with such a situation:
Protecting patients’ privacy
If photographers/camera crews appear outside your practice/clinic or hospital make sure you alert your staff or hospital management team. This way they can be prepared and take appropriate steps to make sure that patients’ privacy is respected, by informing patients of the situation when they book an appointment or in person when they arrive. An appropriate staff member, such as the manager or communications lead, should also warn photographers/camera crews not to take photos of patients or their vehicles, as this could identify them as being patients at the practice.
Being filmed and photographed
Where the photographer or camera crew are focused on you, try to maintain your professional composure. They will film or get a picture which they are likely to use alongside any news stories they publish, so make sure you convey a professional image. Focus on where you are going and do not look directly into the camera, if possible. Do not cover your face or react angrily; smiling may also convey the wrong message. Remember, this will be the image that is viewed by the public, so a calm, professional and dignified appearance is the most appropriate.
Reporters at legal proceedings
Evidence presented in open court or during investigation can be reported in the media, as can unproven allegations. As long as the journalist reports proceedings fairly and accurately, it is unlikely there would be scope for redress. When in court or at a hearing avoid discussing the case until you have the privacy of a room from which you can be sure you will not be overheard. If approached by a journalist while the hearing is ongoing, your lawyer might also help manage the press in these situations.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE RESPONDING
- Find the details of the journalist
- Avoid responding straight away. Take time to consider your response or seek advice
- Maintain your professional composure
- Ask the journalist to provide information on the exact issue they would like you to comment on and their deadline but explain that you cannot comment in detail because of your duty of confidentiality
- Saying “no comment” sounds defensive. Ensure you come across as cooperative and inform the reporter that you will come back to them
- Be polite but firm and don’t allow yourself to be provoked
- Don’t be tempted to brief him ‘off the record as he may still use your comments in his story or ask the patient for a response
TIPS FOR HANDLING THE MEDIA
There are ways in which you can respond to media enquiries without breaching patient confidentiality. You should not comment on the specifics of a particular case but you can explain why – because of your ongoing duty to maintain patient confidentiality, or because the case is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.
There may be occasions where it is appropriate for you to make a more specific comment. It is wise to keep statements succinct and factual even if a patient has provided consent for you to discuss the matter in public.
It is advisable to warn all those close to you know in case they are approached by the media. The media may also contact:
• The trust/commissioners/providers
• Colleagues and professional partners
• Those you live with/friends and family
• Practice/clinic staff.
SUPPORTING YOUR TEAM
In the event of media attention about you or your practice, you can help support your team with the following steps:
• Appoint a nominated lead in your team to be the first point of call for all media enquiries to help ensure a consistent approach
• Brief the team so they know what they can and can’t say – to reporters, and patients who may have seen media coverage.
• Ensure that the receptionist and person answering the phone knows there could be media calls and who to put the call through to
• Coordinate and advice the relevant people who will say what and when
FIRST INDIAN WOMAN DOCTOR TO MOVE TO UAE HONOURED
An Indian doctor who recently honoured by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al for five decades of contribution to health care in the country.
Zulekha Daud moved to the UAE in the 60s and started her practice from scratch in Sharjah. After years of dedicated service, Zulekha Hospital was established in Sharjah in 1992 through her efforts, which was started off as a 30-bed hospital with basic facilities for gynecology, obstretrics, surgery, medicine and paediatrics.
MEDICAL COUNCIL OF INDIA APPROVES GUIDELINES FOR PROTECTING THE DOCTORS FROM FRIVOLOUS OR UNJUST PROSECUTION AGAINST MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE
The Medical Council of India is soon going to lay down guidelines for protecting the doctors from frivolous or unjust prosecution against Medical Negligence. The draft guidelines approved by the Council and sent to the Central Government for approval are:
- The Prosecuting Agency in receipt of any complaint of which criminal rashness or negligence is an ingredient against a registered medical practitioner under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 prior to making arrest refer the complaint to the Chief Medical Officer of a District who shall place it before the District Medical Board for its recommendations as regards the merit of the allegations of criminal rashness or negligence, contained in the complaint.
- The District Medical Board on receipt of such a reference examine the allegation contained therein within two weeks from the date of its receipt and forward its recommendation to the Prosecuting Agency through the Chief Medical Officer of the District
- The District Medical Board that has examined the complaint must ensure a Doctor qualified in that branch of medical science is part of the District
- The Prosecuting Agency, in case, it is dissatisfied with the recommendation of the District Medical Board may by stating the reasons for such dissatisfaction refer the matter to the State Medical Board for its recommendation within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of recommendation of the District Medical Board
- The State Medical Board, on receipt of any reference from the Prosecuting Agency would examine the matter within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of such reference. The State Medical Board shall provide reason for endorsing or rejecting the recommendation of the Divisional (District) Medical Board
- The Prosecuting Agency on the receipt of Recommendation of the District/State Medical Board may further proceed in the matter in accordance with law. However, in case arrest of a registered medical practitioner in the employment of State/Central Government is being made, the Controlling Officer of such Medical Practitioner would be informed by the Prosecuting Agency. Likewise, in case, the registered medical practitioner is engaged in private practice, the concerned State Medical Council, or in case there is no State Medical Council in that State/Union Territory, The Medical Council of India be informed.