Professor David McQuoid-Mason from the UKZN Centre for Socio-Legal Studies recently conducted a Medical Law and Ethics workshop for Ghanaian health professionals.
Organised by the Ghana Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (GIALS), the meeting held in Accra was attended by Ghanaian medical practitioners, health administrators, academics and policy makers. An affiliate of the London Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, GIALS is a legal scholarship and research-orientated independent institution and the second of its kind in Africa aimed at leading legal research in Ghana and Africa.
McQuoid-Mason used discussions of decided cases and presentations to expose participants to typical examples of medico-legal issues relating to the legal and ethical liability of medical professionals. He pointed out that medical malpractice and professional negligence may result in criminal and civil liability as well as disciplinary action by the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana. ‘While very few cases have been decided against medical practitioners in the country, an increasing number are being brought against hospitals because of negligence or malpractice by their administrators and nurses,’ he said.
Retired Supreme Court Judge and GIALS Advisory Council member, Justice Samuel Date-Bah, who attended the workshop said, ‘Medicine and the law are a battle area and we need to bring the rule of law into that area. In Ghana, it is said that health professionals never testify against themselves and therefore there is a real hurdle to litigation of medical malpractice. It is important that health professionals should put the public interest first. On the other hand, we do not want to go the other way such as in America where doctors may fear to touch patients for fear of malpractice. There has to be middle ground somewhere,’ said Date-Bah.
The organiser of the workshop, Mr Victor Chimbwanda, who is the Policy Dialogue and Projects Co-ordinator at GIALS, confirmed that the Institute would further engage with medical organisations in Ghana to offer future training programmes relevant to medical and health professionals in the country to increase awareness of medico-legal issues, ethics and health law in general. McQuoid-Mason would assist the Institute in these endeavours.
‘The Ghanaian doctors participated very enthusiastically helping me learn a lot about important medico-legal issues in the country. I really enjoyed interacting with them and sharing the importance of following bioethical principals in their daily practice. If they do this, they will be acting in accordance with the Ghanaian Constitution, Statute Law and the Common Law. I look forward to coming back and doing something similar for nurses,’ he said.
After the workshop several participants inquired about how they could enroll for the UKZN LLM programme in Medical Law.