Mr Christian Lebrecht Malm-Hesse, a Private Legal Practitioner, has called on health professionals to constantly engage and involve their patients in the healthcare delivery process to avoid medical negligence.
He said a healthcare professional owed patients certain duties a breach of which could result in action of negligence against the doctor.
Mr Malm-Hesse, a Senior Associate at ECAM Law Consult, was speaking at a seminar to educate healthcare professionals at the Saint John Hospital on the medical negligence, clinical errors and physician liability in Accra.
The Seminar is part of the Malm-Hesse Medical Negligence Project 2022, a pro bono and an educative tailored initiative targeted at selected hospitals and clinics within the Greater Accra region.
The five-month Project, which commenced from November 1, 2022, is expected to end in March 2023.
Mr. Malm-Hesse drives the initiative as part of his pro bono time and dedication to the growth of the law of tort in Ghana.
He said the professional had a duty to obtain prior informed consent from the patient before carrying out diagnostic tests and therapeutic management.
He said having come across a number of cases in his practice as a lawyer, he believed that the law could be used as a tool of education to help reduce the incidence of increased medical negligence, clinical errors and physician liability in the hospitals and clinics in Ghana.
The Legal Practitioner believed that prosecution of health practitioners, hospitals and clinics would generally not suffice even though desirable as these target audiences sometimes act below the standard of care required by their professional standards and law.
He said many downtrodden patients, who were affected by medical negligence, were unable to assess legal services not alone and prosecute their interest in court to the end.
He said the way to go was education to health practitioners of which they would exercise the due skills required of them by their standards of practice.
The Project targets 10 hospitals and clinics in the Greater Accra region with the purpose to use three main activities to achieve the objectives.
Mr. Malm-Hesse said it was very important to set the context right that a doctor or a health practitioner would not be guilty of medical negligence if he/she acted in accordance with what was accepted by medical standards.
“The true test for establishing negligence in diagnosis or treatment on the part of a doctor is whether he/she has been proved to be guilty of such failure as no doctor of ordinary skill will be guilty of acting with ordinary care,” he said.
He said a patient approaching a doctor expected medical treatment with all the knowledge and skill that the doctor possesses to bring relief to his medical problem.
He said a patient’s right to receive medical attention from doctors and hospitals is essentially a civil right which is enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
Mr. Malm-Hesse said the objective of the Project was to assess, and identify and provide solutions to medical negligence, clinical errors and physician liability in selected hospitals and clinics in the Greater Accra region.
It is also to deepen education on the legal relationship between medical errors and negligence, and educate the health practitioner about his or her liabilities.
He said it was to educate the target audience on how to avoid medical negligence, to help reduce medical negligence litigation and to empower the target audience to institute internal medical negligence policies or control to deal with the matter internally.
“It is to suggest potential solutions to the problems of medical negligence, clinical errors and physician liability,” he added.
The Legal Practitioner called on healthcare Professionals to avoid medical negligence, since it was currently lucrative in case.
Dr Fusseini Fiddeen, the Medical Director of Saint John of God Hospital told the Ghana News Agency that the seminar was important to the growth of their profession.
He said the hospital had developed some laid down protocols, which every staff member was supposed to follow in dealing with patients, coupled with a team of quality assurance that supervise activities.
On patients’ rights, the Medical Director said there was a Charter prepared for patients on their rights and responsibilities, adding that for major procedures, there was always a consent form.