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Do medical practicioners need to warn patients on risks?

A reader of Cebu Business Week asked this writer whether a medical doctor needs to warn a patient on the danger of the operation and the side effects of the treatment?

Jimmy was rushed to the Hospital because he had difficulty of breathing. After arriving at the hospital he was placed at the emergency room and a through medical check was made.

Initially, the doctors found a tumor in his lung. So, they recommended an operation to remove the tumor. The physician informed him that he needs to be immediately be placed in the operation otherwise he will not be able to survive as the tumor blocked his air passage.

His family produced the needed money for the operation and the medicines. On the same day, Jimmy underwent an operation to remove the tumor. However, Jimmy did not make it.

Susan, Jimmy’s wife, complained that the attending physician did not inform him of the complication Jimmy will have with such kind of operation. The attending physician said that they have done everything under the given circumstances. But the unexpected blood clotting blocked his arteries causing his untimely demise.

Would the attending physicians be made liable under the given circumstances and eventually would the hospital be held liable?

An English Jurisprudence of SIDEWAY V. BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE BETHLEM ROYAL HOSPITAL, AC 871 1985 U.K which is commonly cited in our jurisprudence held that the patient and his immediate relatives should be informed of the risks of the procedure before an operation goes through. This is commonly called the doctrine of INFORMED CONSENT which requires that a patient and his immediate relatives must be informed of the substantial risk of grave adverse consequences before he undergoes an elective surgery. 

But in our local jurisprudence applying particularly Lucas vs. Tuano GR. NO. 178763, 586 SCRA, 200 April 21, 2009, before a physician could be made liable the elements of medical malpractice must exist a) There is a physician-patient relationship. The physician-patient relationship is formed when a patient or his immediate relative engages the services of the physician b) There is duty on the part of the physician to observe the same level of care that any reasonably competent doctor would use to treat the condition under the given circumstances (Cayao-Lasam vs. Ramolete, G.R. No. 159132, 574 SCRA 539, Dec. 18, 2008.) c) There is a breach of duty and injury. The injury contemplated by law is a bodily injury to or death of the patient (Cruz vs. Court of Appeals. G.R. No. 122445, 346Phil. 872) d) There is causation between the breach and the injury. The act or omission complained of is the proximate cause of the injury suffered. The proximate cause of an injury is that cause that, in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury or death and without which the result would not have occurred. (Vda de Bataclan vs. Medina 102 Phil. 181)

Under the circumstance, the physician is required to inform the patient or his immediate relative of the consequence of the operation, his failure constitute a necessary causation that leads the death of Jimmy. The physician or the hospital should have exercise the principle of INFORMED CONSENT. Write us at carillogerry@yahoo.com.ph