31 January 2011

Gambia: Medical Workers Should Be Caring Healers and Advisers


It is said that formal education is not sufficient to change people's mentalities. Even though medical staff are exposed to what cerebral malaria does to the human being in terms of being unconscious and talking gibberish, some trained medical staff should re-evaluate the ethical values of the medical profession and take their stand whether to be part of a medical staff or not. Let us look at this scenario.

The middle aged man has been experiencing periodic blackouts. He would complain of stomach cramps, headache, joint pain and fever. Sometimes he would faint. He has been treated several times for the ailment. It leaves him for months and then he suffers a relapse.

During one of his illnesses he was given drips and other drugs and kept under medical observation until he could move about. It was at this point that a medical staff told the old man's family that his illness cannot be cured by the hospital and recommended that he goes for local treatment.

Once he was discharged from the hospital, he did not even wait for the drugs he had been given to take effect but decided to go for local treatment. After a week he returned and made claims of improved good health.

However after some months there was a relapse. The man is now in greater dilemma. He does not know what is wrong with him but is receiving suggestions of what to do from every corner.

In our view, there is nothing like modern or traditional medicine. Treatment is treatment. There are psycho- somatic illnesses which are caused by fear that one has an illness that is the creation of one's imagination. In that case the symptoms will appear as if one has the illness. Of course this person could get well through faith healing or any means that could restore his or her self confidence. They get cured without even taking any medicine. Counseling of one form or another does the job. However, there are illnesses which are caused by accidents or parasites which invade the human body. This needs people with knowledge of how to combat the parasites or fix broken parts in case of an accident.

This knowledge could come from books or experience. What is important is for society to establish standards by which the competence of a person who treats ailments could be judged and licence accorded to such people to confirm their professional competence.

Our advice to the medical staff is to stop discouraging people from seeking treatment from the hospital by telling them that they could only be cured locally.

There are many people who do not know the duration that drugs should take in the body to be effective. Consequently, they would follow doctor's advice to take all the drugs and then conclude that they cannot be cured by hospitals and proceed for local treatment. In the interim the medicine they had taken could work but they would end up feeling that the most recent treatment they had is what cured them.

We need to stop the propaganda which gives the impression that people have to choose between the two; either to rely on so-called modern medicine or so-called traditional medicine. Polio which causes serious deformities has almost been eradicated through research. People have been cured of leprosy, TB and other illnesses. Clinical research is the most advance instrument ever known to human beings which enables us to know the true nature of illnesses and the degree of effectiveness of the means found to cure them. Only those who wish to live in the Stone Age would trivialise such research. No health system could address the health needs of people in the 21 Century without such research.

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