SEREMBAN - Doctors in government hospitals must obtain "informed consent" from patients wishing to be discharged before their treatment is over.
This is to protect the authorities from legal suits in the event complications arise, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Although an almost similar directive was issued in 1988, the previous guidelines were not fool-proof, he added.
He said a new circular outlining the do's and don't's on this had been issued to all state health departments and government hospitals and should be strictly complied with.
"It is important for medical personnel to abide by the new guidelines so that the hospital or the doctor cannot be held responsible if something goes wrong with a patient who decides to discharge himself," Dr Noor Hisham said in a directive.
"Although there are laws which give the authorities the powers to confine a sick person in hospital, the individual can still discharge himself, but this will be at his own peril."
Family members or guardians of in-patients can have them discharged against the doctor's orders, but this too would only be allowed after the necessary paperwork is done.