Anaesthetists’ knowledge of South African Law pertaining to informed consent in an academic centre
Background: Anaesthetists require knowledge of informed consent laws to mitigate the risk of litigation. The knowledge of South African anaesthetists regarding informed consent law is unknown.
Methods: Participants from an academic anaesthetic department anonymously completed a researcher-developed questionnaire scored out of 23. Factors affecting questionnaire performance were recorded: years after graduation from medical school (YGMS); professional designation (PD); years of anaesthetic experience (YAE); and attendance at formal postgraduate training on informed consent (APGT).
Results: Data from 167 participants were included. The mean (SD) score achieved was 60.08% (12.61%). Questions assessing the Mental Health Care Act and the Children’s Act achieved the highest 88.92% (22.23%) and lowest 51.82% (17.84%) mean scores respectively. Knowledge of the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act was poorer with increasing YGMS (p = 0.0013). Knowledge of the Children’s Act correlated positively with PD (p = 0.0004), YAE (p = 0.0180) and APGT (p = 0.0080). Improved knowledge of the National Health Act correlated with higher PD (p = 0.0120). Knowledge of the Mental Health Care Act and of the Sterilisation Act worsened with increasing YGMS (p = 0.0276 and p = 0.0108 respectively). Mean questionnaire score improved with APGT (p = 0.0161) and higher PD (p = 0.0163).
Conclusion: Anaesthetists have suboptimal knowledge of informed consent laws. Anaesthetists should attend such training and postgraduate education institutions should run these courses regularly. Comparative studies should be conducted in other anaesthetic academic departments countrywide and include surgical staff.
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