Law scholar and Interim Dean of the School of Law, Prof. Lawal Ahmadu, has identified a connection between telemedicine, law, and national development, stating that telemedicine has so far failed to impact national development due to the absence of a supportive legal framework.
At the School of Law seminar on February 1, Professor Ahmadu critically examined some legal implications of tele-medical practice in Nigeria and identified several challenges the practice has faced. He went on to suggest legal measures that can be introduced to benefit telemedicine as a key component of the national healthcare plan.
Defining telemedicine as ‘the practice of medicine from a distance using information and communication technology’, the legal luminary contended that the presence of law in telemedicine is ever needed as it would improve the standard of healthcare delivery in the country.
The presence of the law, he added, would support telemedicine to meet the standards of conventional medicine. The same level of care as per conventional medicine would be provided with the presence of law. Any additional risks or limitations of telemedicine would be made known to the patient legally. Legal considerations such as electronic medical records, medical malpractice liability and freedom of information acts will all be implemented with the law anchoring telemedicine.
Responding to the research question--Can the MDGs and NHIS Acts in Nigeria support telemedicine, Professor Ahmadu argued that this points to identifiable gaps in these legislations as there are no provisions for telemedicine. “Effective laws put in place will help to cut out protracted industrialization phases and catapult developing economies into prosperity.”
The speaker further observed that the medical curricula in Nigeria do not support telemedicine, hence the need for a review.
Prof Ahmadu argued that in instances where there is lax compliance with existing laws, it is the responsibility of stakeholders, especially lawyers, to institutionalize enforcement. Observing that legal practitioners in the country were not doing enough in terms of advocacy, he urged lawyers to get more involved in this process as it is the right step towards development.
“Law permeates all aspects of society; this is why it can be used to facilitate the development of our health sector in Nigeria.”
One of the attendees, third-year law student Taslim Oladoja, suggested that there should be a separate and distinct law set aside for telemedicine instead of merging it with existing laws.
Reported by Famous Dufegha, Law major