MARCH 20 ― 2014 saw some great medical breakthroughs.
A team of Australian doctors successfully transplanted a cadaveric heart into a patient, the first in the world. The norm requires a beating heart, obviously from a living donor.
In the US, one of the many advancements was in the field of robotic medicine. They had improved a bionic eye allowing the blind to see. It consists of a device implanted into the eye, a video camera in a pair of glasses, and a video processing unit carried by the patient.
Then there are the Dutch, who performed the world's first complete skull transplant using a plastic tailor-made 3D-printed piece.
It has been a great year for health innovation. The reinvention of medical ingenuity to benefit the masses is going great.
But here in Malaysia, another kind of “innovation” is taking place.
I came across an advertisement by one “Doctor (EM)” asking patients with heart “blockage” to consume about 4.5 litres of water to reverse their disease.
But not any water mind you, just the one they sell.
This “magic” water was also able to regulate sugar for those with diabetes. They even have testimonies where “patients” say they feel better and have lower blood sugar merely an hour after consuming the water.
The same company also sells products that they claim can reverse Down Syndrome, a condition that occurs because of defective chromosomes.
Adding to the medical wonders in Malaysia is a brand of panty liners that claims to not only regulate menses, reduce vaginal discharge, but also promote fertility.
And if you think that's great, the same company also sells a “special” pillow that they say can “treat” strokes, asthma, depression, psychosis and menstrual cramps.
Where do they put the pillow?
While the Australians, Americans, Dutch were busy creating medical milestones, who knew that we (by we, I mean Malaysians) too have created cures and breakthroughs when other scientists, who have spent years and and hundreds and millions of dollars, failed.
As a medical doctor, I can't make any medical sense of this. Six years of medical training and another two for my Masters, with a total of nine years' experience treating patients has not prepared me for any of the things I've seen quacking lately on social media i.e Facebook and Whatsapp.
And rubbing salt into the wound is we have dubious people calling themselves doctors, testifying to the effectiveness of this so-called water miracle.
Medical doctors deal with treatment protocols, research findings, to address the root cause of the illness; we use medication that has been tried, tested where real and possible effects are documented before even reaching the public.
We are not only bound by a code of ethical conduct, but also laws and regulations where one complaint from the public could mean us facing the much dreaded disciplinary and ethical committees of the Malaysian Medical Council, and risk losing our license and ability to practice not just within Malaysia, but also overseas.
And unlike many hocus pocus magic water and pills, medical science follows a predictable course. Logical, rational, and comprehensible. It cannot be medicine if it is not logical and rational.
Diabetes, for instance, occurs due to insulin inadequacy or our system's reduced sensitivity to the insulin released, or both. So the treatment basically focuses on increasing the insulin, make your body more sensitive to existing insulin, or both.
How we treat patients depends on the which type of diabetes they have, whether complications has ensued, following strict guidelines set by the Malaysian Ministry of Health and other professional bodies including the American Diabetes Association, keeping in mind recommendations made by researchers in international published journals such as Lancet, British Medical Journals etc.
There is a predictable course which has been tested and verified when treating patients.
So if you claim that the magic water can help control diabetes, you will need to tell us how it works, why it works, what makes it different from tap water, and what happens to the body after taking it. Physiologically, physically, emotionally.
Will we grow more hair, or our teeth become yellow after taking it say for five years for instance? No? Can you prove it? Do you have facts and data to support your claim?
If you think it is difficult to please us, you would be right. We are after all the gatekeepers to public health. Letting you pass through would mean that we have been sleeping on the job.
I call on the Ministry of Health to look into these bogus doctors at they pose real threats to public health, not to mention eroding what little faith the public has left of our profession. If they want to help the public, do it in their capacity instead of playing doctor.
We should all play our part in society. Doctors play doctors, pharmacists play pharmacists, salesmen play salesmen.
Conmen should play with other conmen in jail.
I hope the Malaysian Ministry of Health is with me on this and will act on such “doctors.” Members of the public should also play their part and report dubious individuals calling themselves “doctors” to the ministry. Your action or inaction may save lives.
I am fully cognizant of the limitation faced by conventional medicine. We are far from perfect.
But it doesn't mean others can exploit that limitation, knowing full well that those who are desperate will do anything and believe anyone for a cure.
Practitioners of alternative medicine must be regulated, as strictly if not more than those who practice conventional medicine.
Not only to safeguard the patient's wellbeing, but also the reputation of the medical fraternity.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.