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Irresponsible patients

Roughly two weeks ago, a video of a doctor losing his cool at a government health clinic in Rasah, Negeri Sembilan went viral. The short clip showed a doctor shouting at the patient who was recording the video, asking her to either wait outside the consultation room or leave the premise. Although the Negeri Sembilan State Health Department had announced that the incident has been investigated and that the issue has been settled amicably between the two parties, the rippling effect of the incident continues to make waves until recently.

The viral post has since opened up so many discussions related to patient-doctor dynamics, the appropriate feedback channels, rules and regulations when being in healthcare facilities and the overall state of the Malaysian Healthcare System. I myself have linked my posts on how to provide constructive feedback titled “Complaints in healthcare: a practical guide to giving constructive feedback” on many comment sections of articles related to the incident, in my bid to educate the public on how to complain constructively (rather than posting videos on social media).

In continuation of that effort, I wrote this post. This time, I aim to inform the public (patients) that such an act is irresponsible and the reasons why it is. However, please take note that this post is not my way of indicating the side that I am supporting. I am not supporting the doctor because I am one. Neither am I supporting the patient because I am also one. I think both parties had their reasons for behaving the way they did, but both parties are wrong for having behaved in such unruly ways. I am just starting with the patient first. I’ll write another one for the doctor in the weeks to come.

Why taking video in a healthcare facility and posting it on social media is wrong?

First of all, I would like to clarify that taking a picture and video recordings are prohibited in government healthcare facilities nationwide. Patients’ confidentiality and safety may be breached should anyone fail to abide by this rule. So, the mere act of recording the video is already wrong let alone posting it on social media. I suggest the public assess the intention behind posting such videos on social media before hitting the ‘post’ button. Do you want retribution (by damaging the doctor’s reputation) or make a contribution (by suggesting ways to improve)? Please choose the latter, it was just a rhetorical question. Either way, using social media as a mean to let the public judge the situation is wrong.

As patients, we have responsibilities and rights when we are being treated in healthcare facilities. We cannot claim our rights if we haven’t fulfilled our responsibilities. Two of those responsibilities that are highly pertinent to this instance are:

  • Treat healthcare staff, doctors, other patients and visitors with courtesy and respect.
  • Abide by all healthcare facility rules and regulations.

Clearly, by recording and then posting the video the patient has failed to abide by the healthcare facility rules and regulations. The content of the video also shows that the patient failed to treat the doctor with courtesy and respect. So, how could the patient expect to be treated with dignity and respect (a key patients’ right) when he/she has clearly acted irresponsibly?

Why it is important to be responsible patients in this case?

Apart from maintaining patients’ confidentiality and safety, refraining from taking videos and posting them on social media also help preserve the sanctity of the patient-doctor relationship. This is not to say that one shouldn’t complain about a doctor if the doctor has done something wrong or negligent in any way. Please, by all means, lodge your complaints if there are strong justifications for doing so. But please don’t do it on social media. We don’t need the public to hold court over a brief and often unilateral video which only highlight the doctor’s shortcomings instead of painting the whole picture. The confidential nature of the doctor-patient relationship must be retained at all costs.

Also as this case has proven, being irresponsible through such acts often backfires against the ‘complainer’. The court of the public who was supposed to support the patient, in turn, went directly against him/ her as they start to question the intention behind the act. People can see beyond what is obvious to them even though the video emphasised the doctor’s negative emotional reactions while the patient seemingly stayed cool the whole time. Because the public is becoming more aware of the strains that doctors are under in their working environments, they tend to empathise with the doctors and less with the ‘demanding’ patients. You don’t want to be caught in such a situation, now do you?

So please, start being responsible patients. If you are unsure of your responsibilities and rights as patients when you are in any healthcare facility – look it up (it could literally just be pasted on a wall in the facility) or ask the staffs. Most government healthcare staff would be able to point you in the right direction. In any case that they are unable to, here is a version of patients’ rights and responsibility document from Ramsay Sime Darby Healthcare that would give you a general sense of what you could expect and what is expected of you when you are being a patient in healthcare facilities. It is high time we fulfil our duties and responsibilities as patients instead of focusing on just our rights.

Image by succo from Pixabay


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