Patients have the right to know the credentials of the treating doctor

A colleague of mine in the US needed a hip replacement surgery to be done via minimally invasive technique. He found that there is a learning curve for hip replacement surgery, which stipulates a minimum 100 patients to become an expert in this surgery. He identified a surgeon, who had done 92 such surgeries and waited for him to reach the figure of 100. He then underwent the surgery in the US.

A doctor’s wife needed a surgical intervention for acoustic neuroma. Injury to the facial nerve during surgery is still a major concern. The surgeons were asked directly about the number of such cases operated by them and their success rates in facial nerve preservation. One surgeon in the US said that he had no facial nerve damage in his last 800 cases. The patient was successfully operated in the US without any complications.

This is the latest trend and is a requirement for medical treatment.

There are four types of patients: Ignorant, Informed, Empowered and Enlightened. Most patients today are empowered and enlightened and want the best of care. Every patient has the right to know the academic background of the treating doctor, skill training, the number of similar procedures or cases performed, and disclose success rates and complication rates, and the ability of the doctor to anticipate and manage complications quickly including awards and honors received, infrastructure available, competency of the juniors and associated staff. Any conflict/s of interest must also be disclosed.

In this digital age, this information should be available on websites of the doctor/healthcare establishment. Any false claim can lead to legal implications.

Regulation 1.4.2 of MCI Code of Ethics Regulations allows doctors to suffix recognized medical degrees or certificates/diplomas and memberships/honours which confer professional knowledge or recognizes any exemplary qualification/achievement to their names.

Every patient has the right to know the credentials of the treating doctor. Recognizing this, recently the Chennai High Court has suggested to the MCI to display number of attempts by doctors in examinations in the website and also in the hospital/clinic concerned so that patients would know the doctor’s performance. Justice S Vaidyanathan in support of his observation said the MCI will have to take a decision and ensure that the number of attempts made by doctors will have to be displayed in the website and also in the hospital/clinic concerned, in order to enable patients to know performance of the doctor as a student.

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