The Health Professional Council of South Africa has recorded a constant increase in medical malpractice claims in the country every year. However, this increase can be prevented by practitioners by constantly considering what is known as the six Cs: consent, competence, compassion, consultation, communication and clinical records.
Medical practitioners need to maintain a good communicative relationship between themselves, their patients and the patient’s family. This breakdown results in two-thirds of claims brought against medical practitioners. Practitioners need to explain medical procedures to patients in a manner that can ensure that they understand the procedure and their risks. In addition, if there are any complications these complications need to be explained to the patient promptly and with humility. Practitioners are encouraged to provide a safe apology (they mention the complications without admitting any guilt of negligence).
When consulting with a patient it is recommended that the medical practitioner advise the patient to seek an objective second opinion when they are uncertain about a specific procedure. With regards to the surgical procedure, good surgeons and medical practitioners always stay in contact with their medical fraternity by attending congresses and workshops and taking the time to read specialist journals. If the surgery is known to be difficult, the surgeon should not perform the procedure unless they have performed a certain number of the same procedure in a given year. Although currently there is no properly functioning system of peer review, it would assist in the decrease of medical malpractice claim. This would also assist medical practitioners stay within the boundaries of their own field of expertise.
The last factor is clinical records, when practitioners keep good clinical notes there is a correlation with good practice. Although patients also institute claims for retribution and a need for compensation, when the six Cs have been complied with by the surgeons, the presence of negligence would be significantly reduced. Without negligence, there would be no viable claim against medical practitioners.