Thursday, October 23, 2008

Should We Trust Our Doctors?

The frequency with which medical professionals are bungling of late is worrying. Just a few months ago the case of little Rose Mwaka was brought into the limelight after an unsupervised intern at the Coast General Hospital pierced the little girl’s artery instead of a vein. Owing to that error, she developed gangrene and later had her foot amputated at Kijabe Mission Hospital. Three doctors, a nurse and intern at Coast General Hospital were put under investigation.

Currently, yet another mum, Susan Wanjiru is dealing with amputation of her little girl Lesley’s right arm in seemingly similar circumstances but this time at Kenyatta National Hospital. Last year, a teenage boy suffered permanent brain damage after an overdose of anesthesia was administered during an operation. And we cannot forget the case of Brian Kimutai who went into a coma after being injected with a wrong combination of vaccines.

Chances are these cases are just a tip of the iceberg as far as medical blundering is concerned. Many others either go unreported or patients die as a direct result of treatment. Parents without medical knowhow are made to believe that it was the illness and not the treatment that killed or maimed their loved ones. Medical misconduct can be hidden in files of medical jargon which the layman cannot understand.

Blundering doctors if confirmed guilty can be deregistered from the practice but how easy is it to nail a doctor when the board charged with investigating malpractice itself consists of fellow doctors? How easy is it for them to testify against one of their own? It’s like asking the police to investigate fellow police officers.

Justice is not free and neither is it cheap. Paying the hospital bill already is an uphill task and to then expect affected persons to raise more funds to seek legal redress is next to impossible for many. Some just let it pass because it’s too much hustle and no amount of settlement cash can bring back a loved one’s amputated arm or leg or life.

Granted, medical is not the only profession in which cases of gross misconduct we witness. Cases in this field stand out because we trust doctors with our health and lives. Their errors could mean the death or incapacitation of a human being. Ok so could those of the police but that’s an article for another day.

Of course we would all prefer not to fall ill in the first place but just in case you do and find yourself in the care of a doctor, remember that the days when doctors’ words were law are long gone.

  • Learn the basics about tests and surgical procedures.
  • Get a second opinion if in doubt.
  • In case of surgery, ask what the risks are and whether there are any options.
  • Ask about every drug and know about it before using it. You have a right to this.
  • Be observant and ask questions. Do not agree to procedures until they make sense to you.

Otherwise, take care of yourself and do your bit to stay healthy.

See Also: Microwave Oven Dangers


BP ONE said...

Shiko, to answer your question whether we should trust our Doctors, hear what Dr. Peter Rost says in an article titled Don't Trust Your Doctor.
“I'm a doctor, so I can say this with a straight face: Don't trust your doctor. There's no question in my mind that today most doctors are businessmen first and doctors second. and you shouldn't trust your doctor anymore than you trust your stockbroker, (if you are foolish enough to have one). Neither one looks out for you, they primarily care about themselves. That's the reason the individual retail investor on Wall Street is the last one to buy a high-flying stock before it is about to tank, and the individual patient is the last one to swallow a deadly pill, when everyone else in the know has already stopped taking it.” See link

I agree with you, we should not take our doctor’s word as Gospel truth it is advisable to get opinions from a third party sometimes.

31337 said...

this is very good advice. better safe than sorry. recourse is costlier than the possible benefits.

KK said...

The biggest fight... someone said, we have on our hands is against ignorance... esp that that resides within us. Great article Shiko.

About nanowrimo...I hope u do sign up and give it a shot with me. It is better to have tried and failed than to wonder later on.

Kirima said...

Very touchy topic and I really do feel for the unfortunate kids who had to suffer so.
You are on point when you urge people to be careful and seek more knowledge when seeking treatment.
I think sometimes we rush to blame medical practitioners when things go wrong during therapy and indeed there are cases when a regime of treatment will result in more injury but I would like to believe that this is the exception rather than the norm. Like any other profession doctors will make mistakes either by mission or comission the differnce is that the consequences are often very serious wheras an accounting error can be corrected, a journalists error will only result in libel or a lawyers error may cause you to lose a case a doctors error can actually lose a life. There is nothing sinister with medical malpractice being determined by a commitee of peers this is because it is not easy for a lay person to determine whether the cause was an avoidable mistake or whether negligence was the case in any case diagnosis is nothing more than an educated guess but a guess nonetheless.

Shiko-Msa said...

BP thanks for the link. Very interesting things the good doctor has to say. Good to hear it from one of them.

Intelliegensia watu wachunge afya yao. At least we do our best.

KK thanks for the compliment. I hope it's a sign of things to come at nanowrimo. Wherever did someone get that name from. I'll sign up and get writing that's for sure. We have a whole month. Even if I don't finish a whole novel si even trying is something........

Kirima welcome back. Malpractice is indeed the exception thankfully. These cases are still few and far between considering the may people who go visit hospitals and clinics every day. Nobody deserves this but such stuff happening to innocent babies is just too sad.

Nairobian Perspective said...

The hospitals are even worse than the doctors, why for one the Doctor may just have been a consultant,the hospital is the one that employs the nurses who spend more time with the patient than the Doctors!

Two...hospitals tramp up Doctors fees nowadays, they may bill you 90 k as Doctors fee and pay the Doctor 40 and Keep 50(happened to me twice in the past 5 months, and i personally knew the Doctors who were readily willing to waive their fees.)

]I believe some of this is outright fraud and corruption...where is KACC on this issue cause if you fleece 20 k a day from each patient, at the end of the month you are a multi millionaire! tax free!only in Kenya

Shiko-Msa said...

Maybe not only in Kenya Nairobian but mostly in Kenya. Doctors are now practicing business more than medicine. Check out BP's link and see what goes on in their minds when they're prescribing those expensive drugs while they could very easily prescribe a cheaper option.

Sorry for your predicaments and shame on these hospitals! Here you can pay the doctor direct. As in when you get your bill you get the doctor's figure and head to his office to pay there and negotiate in the process.

joyunspeakable said...

i wish to add something to this twist. do you know some mighty sounding insurance firms insist on low grade (read: generics) by the hospitals treating you. some of us paying medical insurance and then you fall sick...the doctors are given instructions like only to be admitted for 12 hrs and such trash...

all over people are all commercial.

Shiko-Msa said...

Joy thanks. HMOs and medical insurance companies are a whole new can of sick worms. Some very big names in this field have in the past been known to fire or transfer doctors who prescribe expensive drugs in their (HMO) clinics. Now what they've done is computerize their pharmacies and a doctor can only prescribe what is in the system. And the big shots then get to decide what to put in the system. So even if a doctor knows a certain drug could really be of help to you, if it's not in the computer then there's not a damn thing he can do.

And there's the disturbing allegation that the quality of drugs you get depends on your cover. Gold Card, silver, bronze etc etc. Gold carders pay a higher premium of course so I guess it makes sense business wise. But should it be business first when someone is sick?

The biggest name AAR still charges 100 bob when you visit their clinic. At least in Mombasa - that's not a rumor or allegation it's true. And yet you're visiting them because you have a medical cover with them. Do they imagine there are people who have corporate medical covers but personally cannot afford that 100 bob?

joyunspeakable said...

Was trying actually not to mention AAR. They are culprits in this game.....this info was given to me by a respectable hospital in this country.

SisBigBones said...

I saw those stories in the paper and was horrified. One thing people should realize is that doctors are human and they will make mistakes. That's why in places like the US, there are checkpoints in place to catch majority of the mistakes and there's such a thing as malpractice. Having said that, I think Kenya needs to implement malpractice laws to try and hold doctors responsible for their mistakes!

Shiko said...

Sis kwanza when it comes to babies it's even more touching. Hapa Kenya the problem is always laws laws laws. Seems we're sometimes a lawless country!