Deadly medical errors in Vietnam

Deadly medical errors in Vietnam

VIETNAM - Incidents of medical malpractice in Vietnam are not rare.

For Halloween, one man in Ho Chi Minh City wore a doctor's white coat with a name tag on the left chest pocket.

It did not read "Dr Frankenstein", but "Dr Cat Tuong".

Dam Vinh Hung, a well known Vietnamese pop star, dressed up in the ghoulish costume to mimic a medic who is being gossiped about all over town.

The allegation is that he accidentally killed a 39-year-old woman in a botched breast-enlargement surgery. Then, he is said to have admitted dumping her body in the Red (Hong) River.

The woman concerned, Le Thi Thanh Huyen, suffered a tragic death - and her body is yet to be found. The story, and the alleged actions of the doctor, Nguyen Manh Tuong, continue to make headlines in the mass media.

While the actions of the pop star are in such obvious bad taste, they do seem to reflect a gory tale of medical malpractice.

Reports say that Dr Tuong carried out the operation in an unlicensed beauty clinic or salon that he worked in. It is even said that the doctor's main job was at the prestigious, state-owned Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi.

Leading figures in the government are said to be well aware of the incident, so people are eagerly waiting to see what charges the doctor will eventually face.

Other authorities are said to be trying to avoid getting involved in the matter.

Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee, Pham Quang Nghi, said the Health Ministry or city authorities could not be blamed for the incident. He said the case was so rare and unusual it could not be connected to the overall responsibilities of authorities.

When Nghi referred to the case as rare, he was probably referring to Dr Tuong's alleged actions in throwing her body into the river after the poor woman died. As for medical malpractice, in Vietnam, sadly, it is not a rare event. Many people know of someone who has died this way.

Just three months ago, three infants died after being vaccinated in central Quang Tri province.

Authorities recently came to the conclusion that they were given the wrong serum.

Another infant died the following month in southern Binh Phuoc province after being given a faulty tuberculosis vaccine.

In central Khanh Hoa province, a 21-month-old boy had his bladder cut out mistakenly by doctors, who were supposed to be performing surgery to remove a hernia.

The boy has to use two catheters to urinate until he's five years old - when his bladder can be rebuilt.

I can recall even more deaths and unfortunate consequences caused by medical malpractice in this country, but space won't allow. When they happened, authorities also did not hasten to condemn the doctors or nurses involved, probably because the incidents were less dramatic.

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