Being richer is not the same as being more ethical — Ong Hean Teik

JANUARY 2 — The unfortunate case of an Australian patient who died of pulmonary embolism on reaching home after a medical procedure in Malaysia has led to the accusation that his management had met ethical standards in Malaysia but had fallen far short of Australian ethical standards, giving the impression that Malaysian doctors are more dishonest than those in Australia.

Unethical practice comes about because doctors seek money and fame, bypassing their education, training and conscience. It is not a problem limited to any country, society, racial or religious group. In Australia, a liposuction together with experimental, unproven stem-cell treatment was performed on a 75 year old woman who sought treatment for her dementia, leading to her death from uncontrolled bleeding.

The problem of profit driven stem cell clinics offering unproven treatment is so prevalent in Australia, and elsewhere, it is being written up in the non-medical academic circle

In the early 2000s the Australian Defence Department tested its soldiers sent to Bougainville and East Timor with anti-malarial drugs not approved for use in Australia and well known to cause mental side effects. The commander was reported to have told the soldiers that taking part in the trial was a prerequisite for deployment, a total breach of medical ethics since subjects of any medical trial have to be informed of its side effect and have the right not to participate in it. It was reported that some participants had suffered serious side effects including depression and suicide.

Australia has better life expectancy than Malaysia with healthcare expenditure in 2011 being 17 times more than Malaysia’s. It is thus fair to say that Australia is richer with better healthcare standards than in Malaysia. However as wealth has no relationship with morality, to say that medicine in Australia is more ethical than in Malaysia is as bigoted as it is to claim that society in Australia is more honest than in Malaysia. 

* Dr Ong Hean Teik is a consultant cardiologist.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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