The Acting Registrar of the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana has pointed out that patients do not have the right to determine the kind of medical treatment they should be given at hospitals.
Speaking on Friday, September 9, 2021, on JoyFM’s Super Morning Show, Dr Divine Banyubala stated that patients can only choose from options prescribed to them at a medical facility.
“Often, the mistaken assumption is that because patients have a right to choose from options prescribed to them, it means that he/she has the right to determine what they want, but it is the profession that determines that these are the appropriate treatment modalities for this particular condition at this point in time in medical science.
“Then from those options, the patient, given the critical information about the pros and cons of each, can then exercise the choice that it is option A rather than B. But a patient can’t dictate to a doctor what he/she wants,” he explained.
He was contributing to discussions on the Super Morning Show, which centered on medical negligence. During the show, Host, Mamavi Owusu Aboagye posed a question to Dr Banyubala following an incident that resulted in the death of a 27-year-old.
The incident happened in a public hospital. The deceased was admitted to the hospital in November, 2015, as a result of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
Husband and wife opted for a cesarean section but the doctors decided to do a vaginal delivery. The baby was delivered, however, the woman bled and eventually died.
The concern was that the prescribed mode of delivery chosen by the doctors failed after the client’s option was overlooked.
In a reaction, Dr Banyubala was emphatic that the couple did not have the right to determine what mode of treatment to be given. In his view, it is best practice to heed the advice of health experts.
“The fact that health experts are required to respect patient’s rights to choose, does not translate to patients being entitled to determine the kind of treatment they want,” he said.
“The couple are not the doctors. They can’t determine what the medically appropriate treatment is. It is the professionally determined, medically appropriate options that an informed patient can exercise an informed choice from. So one can’t just walk to a Doctor and say I need a cesarean section when there’s no indication for a cesarean session,” he added.
In the same vein, he indicated that health experts do not have the right to call for any medical modality when there is no need for that.
He further indicated that any expert who will yield to the demands of a patient which are not in line with available options for treatment will be sanctioned.
“You don’t provide treatment for nothing. And it will amount to professional misconduct. You can’t just ask a patient to do tests if the test will not help resolve the patient’s condition,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Legal Practitioner, Emmanuel Darkwa, who was also on the show shared an opposing view. He posited that whatever the choice of a patient is, the medical professional must respect it.
“The most important thing is for the doctor to have a conversation with the patient,” he said.
Referring to a ruling in the United Kingdom, he argued that “a patient is entitled to take into account her own values, assessments of the comparative merits of giving birth in the natural and traditional way and of giving birth by cesarean section, whatever medical opinion may say, alongside the medical evaluation of the risk to herself and her baby.
“She may place great value on giving birth in a natural way and be prepared to take the risk to herself and her baby. The medical profession must respect her choice unless she lacks the legal capacity to do so,” he added.