I VISITED the National Skin Centre (NSC) on May 26 for a review by a senior consultant.

I was surprised to see a junior doctor accompanying the consultant.

After a brief review that lasted no longer than five minutes, I was given some forms, signed by the doctor, and told to see the nurse outside for further instructions.

The nurse ushered me into another room, where a Caucasian female doctor asked me to strip for an examination of my skin for research purposes.

I was confused but complied as I thought this was part of my treatment. When that was done, the nurses asked me to fill up a survey form containing some questions that were quite personal.

I also was told to sign a form indicating my consent for the Caucasian doctor to conduct research on me. This form was signed by the consultant. It was also supposed to be signed by a witness to ensure that patients understand the procedure before they are examined for research. This part was left empty.

A few months before this, photographs of my naked body were taken at the NSC studio but I was not told what they were for. It was the photographer who later informed me that it was part of the research, to show the before and after of the treatment.

The whole exercise could have been better managed so that it was less stressful and patients do not feel like they are under duress.

While I accept that junior doctors need practical training, the least the NSC could have done was to introduce the trainee to me and explain why he was there. Also, the senior doctor could have informed me that I had the right to ask the trainee to leave the room – which I would have done.

Would the Ministry of Health, Singapore Medical Council and Personal Data Protection Commission clarify on hospital patients’ privacy rights?

The NSC should respect the privacy of patients and conduct itself in a professional manner.

Patients accept and do what the doctors and nurses tell them to do out of respect and thinking it is part of the treatment. But it is also important for doctors and nurses to practise good bedside manners.

They should put patients at ease and not behave in an imposing manner, expecting patients to fill up research and survey forms.

Cheng Choon Fei

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