testimonial in my column of August 9, for the record, was not mine (since
many readers were under that misapprehension.) It was given by the
daughter of a patient whose father died of cancer of the bladder, after he
was misdiagnosed by one specialist and finally treated by another who
withheld his true condition until it was too late for the family to come
to terms with it, or seek alternative help. For the record, too, the
family spent $125,000 in private health care for this patient.
is the letter written to the wife of this deceased cancer patient, who
wrote to the Medical Board, claiming negligence and asking for an
investigation into the doctors who treated her husband, as the continuing
part of a series on the uncaring health system:
Mrs X (name withheld),
thank you for your letter of 25th January 2001 and sympathise with you on
the loss of your husband.
Medical Board has reviewed the matter and unfortunately, under the
existing legislation of the Medical Board Act (1960), is not empowered to
deal with matters of professional incompetence and/or negligence.
recognise your disappointment in not being able to pursue the matter any
person has been lucky to get an acknowledgement. I am still waiting for
mine from the Medical Board and Medical Association to a letter I wrote
them 12 months ago asking them how accountable they are to patients in
refrain from patients who have contacted me by the dozens goes like this:
is no justice.”
are answerable to no one. We are paying through our nose and not getting
are no systems to deal with complaints.”
the stethoscope from the doctor and you are left with an unscrupulous
doctors will testify against one another, so we can’t even go to
am afraid for myself and my family.”
have been those, too, who have written saying how this doctor or the other
saved their lives or those of their loved ones. Patients have written in,
praising several doctors’ compassion and competence. And there have been
words of encouragement from the true professionals, doctors with integrity
for whom medicine is a vocation, and who would like to see systems in
place to deal with complaints, a medical Ombudsman, a Malpractice Council,
as well as a Code of Conduct for doctors and a Patients’ Charter,
because it will protect both doctors and patients.
here I go, banging my head against the wall once more, created by the Men
in White, repeating seemingly into the darkness, that even if one patient
dies of negligence and that case is not investigated, and there is no
prospect of justice to the bereaved family, it is too many.
me is a chorus of anguished men and women who have paid dearly for the
lives of their loved ones, and still lost them, paid with money, time,
tears, frustration, helplessness.
middle-aged man who is still employed full-time, recently remarked, to my
shock, that he has already given instructions to his wife and children not
to spend any money on him should he fall ill, and no matter what happens,
he wants to die without medical care.
am not going to throw away the money for which I have worked hard all my
life at doctors. It’s better my wife uses it to educate the children,”
goes beyond cynicism. It’s a form of coerced euthanasia. Have we been
brought to this, then? Left with no choice?
the voice of this woman who is too broken to protest. Earlier
this year, she claims, her two-year-old died in a case of negligence, as
recounted in this column two weeks ago, and this week, her mother, too,
died under the “care” of the medical fraternity.
got a phone call saying my mother, who I had admitted last night into the
hospital for vomiting, died this morning.
night the doctor admitted her for ‘mild dehydration’ and he brushed me
off when I said she had a bad heart and just put her on drips. The nurses
asked me if she tossed about. I said yes, but they failed to give her a
morning they called me to say her heart stopped, and assured me she
‘went peacefully,’ but when I got to the hospital, another patient
told me she was awake, calling for me, and fell off that high hospital bed
after which she was pronounced dead.
is just no justice for people around here - it’s really hard - really
not easy. Not easy at all.”
the voice of this reader, who says his family spent some $200,000 in
medical care for three people in two years in several private and one
medical fraternity does not care. Private and semi-private institutions
charge a lot but don’t have the equipment and staff to support the
demand. Nurses only become nurses because they probably can’t do what
they really want to do.
are not able to clearly articulate the chances of patients either, because
they don’t know, or they are not trained in communicating with anxious
each of our relatives we had to settle the doctors, reassure them that we
are a strong family and could take bad news. Only then were we able to get
had to change sheets, bathe our relatives, administer medication, change
catheters, give insulin injections.
is the clincher. Imagine me, a man, having to bathe, wipe faeces, wipe the
vaginal areas of my grandmother, because the nurses were not there, were
overworked, had not reached their rooms as yet.
do not do tasks of that nature. However, they can easily take your
Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago clearly does not hold itself
responsible, and will not be accountable to the public.
think these voices will go away. They won’t, as long as the medical
fraternity continues to treat the lives and well-being of patients as a
business rather than a vocation. The voices will stay, until one day, they
get too loud to ignore.