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.

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