Legal: Duty of Care owed. Apex Court decision.« Back to Questions List

What is Duty of Care? Who owes a duty & to whom is this duty owed? Singapore is at a crossroads where rights of the individual is being championed. It is transitioning in order that freedom of expression is being encouraged as it's key to creative & innovative ideas. Championing individual rights come with issues for any open society. The rights can be misunderstood & abused. The same rights can bring about change for good. The Medical fraternity however is at sharp end of change. It is by nature protective & practices closely to that effect. Now, in adopting patient autonomy means a complete reversal in mindset that allows for information transfer but not always required anymore in decision making. Patient autonomy now requires the consulting physician to be that of an arbitrator & not, a driver of choice. A recent case at the Apex Court in February 2019, reversed the decision of the Supreme court which exonerated doctors for failing in their duty of care to a lung cancer patient. The earlier decision found no negligence but the Justices found "serious inadequacies" in a system which contributed to the diagnosis being delayed. Subsequently, treatment that could have been started earlier for better prognosis was inevitably, missed. In that decision, the Justices have recommended for settling amicably & quickly. This case has highlighted an important issue. While paternalism has a place but in a society that is educated, well-informed & with access to information, the medical fraternity must also adapt to the change by looking again more critically at its own practices. Duty of Care is an issue that will come up again & again as the population here ages as many questions will be asked as to whom is this duty is owed. From Whom must therefore consent be obtained? And to what extent is the duty of care owed to a spouse, children & even family members who may all have material interest in the the management of any elderly or sick person.
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Asked on 05/07/2019 9:28 pm
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Singapore is at a crossroads where rights of the individual is being championed. It is transitioning in order that freedom of expression is being encouraged as it’s key to creativity & innovation. Championing individual rights come with issues for any open society. The rights can be misunderstood & abused. The same rights can bring about change for good.

The Medical fraternity however is at sharp end of change. It is by nature protective & practices closely to that effect. Now, in adopting patient autonomy means a complete reversal in mindset that allows for information transfer but not always required anymore in decision making. Patient autonomy now requires the consulting physician to be that of an arbitrator & not, a driver of choice.

A recent case at the Apex Court in February 2019, reversed the decision of the Supreme court which exonerated doctors for failing in their duty of care to a lung cancer patient. The earlier decision found no negligence but the Justices found ”serious inadequacies” in a system which contributed to the diagnosis being delayed. Subsequently, treatment that could have been started earlier for better prognosis was inevitably, missed. In that decision, the Justices have recommended for settling amicably & quickly.

This case has highlighted an important issue. While paternalism has a place but in a society that is educated, well-informed & with access to information, the medical fraternity must also adapt to the change by looking again more critically at its own practices.

Duty of Care is an issue that will come up again & again as the population here ages as many questions will be asked as to whom is this duty is owed. From Whom must therefore consent be obtained? And to what extent is the duty of care owed to a spouse, children & even family members who may all have material interest in the the management of any elderly or sick person.

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Answered On 05/07/2019 10:19 pm