Mailbox: Basic tenet in patient care

PHOTO: Mailbox: Basic tenet in patient care

Dr Tang Kok Foo's comments on the escalation of doctors' professional fees ("Reasons for soaring private health-care costs"; Aug 14) have sparked much debate.

The questions we need to ask are: Is self-restraint really a rare virtue among doctors and dentists? Have they thrown ethics out of the window?

The fact that many doctors supported Dr Tang's cause tells me there is hope among our medical fraternity and self-restraint is still being practised, albeit not across the whole spectrum of medical professionals.

Through the Hippocratic Oath, physicians promise to prescribe regimens for the good of their patients according to their abilities and judgment, and to never do harm to anyone.

We in the medical and dental profession should always fall back on this basic tenet.

Treating our patients well means treating them as if they were our family. We need to ask ourselves: Would we prescribe this same treatment to our parents, brothers and sisters?

Doing no harm means we will not cause physical and emotional damage to our patients by prescribing unnecessary operations and treatments for the sake of lining our pockets.

In a materialistic society, the thirst for more material possessions drives selfish motives that may override our basic desire to do good.

For example, a patient I referred for specialist medical treatment was hospitalised and operated on almost immediately. He consented to surgery because the surgeon warned him of the dire consequences if he did not undergo the procedure.

The patient ended up $25,000 poorer and complained that he was not given time to consider the options. A quick check with another surgeon showed that the same surgery would have cost only half as much.

As physicians, we have to strive to uphold the noble qualities of the great healers we were commissioned to be. Above all, we should never justify our professional fees based on high property prices and labour costs, which form only part of our operating costs.

Dr Wong Chiang Yin wrote in support of re-introducing some form of fee guidelines ("Fee guidelines are like speed limits"; last Thursday). To me, being humane supersedes any fee guidelines. Showing respect to our patients instead of weighing the size of their wallets is the best form of self-regulation.

Eugene Tang Kok Weng (Dr)

This article was first published on Aug 26, 2014.
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