Physicians’ legal knowledge of informed consent and confidentiality. A cross-sectional study

Physicians’ legal knowledge of informed consent and confidentiality. A cross-sectional study
Maria Cristina Plaiasu, Dragos Ovidiu Alexandru, Codrut Andrei Nanu
BMC Medical Ethics, 16 September 2022; 23(93)
Open Access
Only a few studies have been conducted to assess physicians’ knowledge of legal standards. Nevertheless, prior research has demonstrated a dearth of medical law knowledge. Our study explored physicians’ awareness of legal provisions concerning informed consent and confidentiality, which are essential components of the physician-patient relationship of trust.
A cross-sectional study assessed attending physicians’ legal knowledge of informed consent and confidentiality regulations. The study was conducted in nine hospitals in Dolj County, Romania. Physicians were given a questionnaire with ten scenarios and instructed to select the response that best reflected their practice. We assessed the responses of physicians who claimed their practice to be entirely legal. Their legal knowledge was evaluated by comparing their answers to applicable laws. We also calculated a score for the physicians who admitted to committing a legal breach.
Of the 305 respondents, 275 declared they never committed any law violation. However, their median correct answer score was 5.35 ± 1.66 out of 10. The specialty was the strongest predictor of legal knowledge, with emergency physicians rating the lowest and non-surgical physicians scoring the highest. Physicians who worked in both private and public sectors were better knowledgeable about legal issues than those who worked exclusively in the public sector. Results indicate that physicians are aware of the patient’s right to informed consent but lack comprehensive understanding. While most physicians correctly answered simple questions, only a tiny minority identified the correct solution when confronted with ethical dilemmas. The physicians who acknowledged breaching the law, on the other hand, had a slightly higher knowledge score at 5.45 ± 2.18.
Legal compliance remains relatively low due to insufficient legal awareness. Physicians display limited awareness of legal requirements governing patient autonomy, confidentiality, and access to health data. Law should be taught in all medical schools, including undergraduate programs, to increase physicians’ legal knowledge and compliance.

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