Sufficient informed consent to medical treatment of adults: legal and ethical perspectives from Malawi
This special communication discusses the current legal and ethical requirements for informed consent to medical treatment of adults in Malawi. It analyzes the scope of the laws and code of ethics on professional discipline, including criminal privilege for surgeries and clarifies when insufficient disclosures entitle patients to compensation under civil law. Inconsistencies and uncertainties in the law are made apparent.
It evaluates to which degree disclosure standards of other Commonwealth jurisdictions (e.g. the case of Montgomery) would be suitable for the health care setting of a country like Malawi that is characterized by shortages of resources, high illiteracy rates and a communitarian cultural context. Doctor-patient communication is not alien to African culture and part of sufficient informed consent.
In order to balance the need for efficiency in health care delivery, accountability for quality care, fairness and effective patient-doctor communication the authors suggest to adopt the reasonable patient test only, if a defence of heavy workload on case-to-case basis is introduced at the same time. This does not dispense the need for organisational diligence on part of the institutional health care provider within its capacity.