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Opinions of Thursday, 16 March 2006

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

An Ungrateful Bunch

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What at all is plaguing this country of ours? We took some of the finest and sharpest young brains and offered them a priceless education free of charge. We entered into a Social Contract with these young folks: ?we?ll provide you free quality education; we will respect and honor you in our society; and to the best of our economic abilities, we?ll provide you with a more comfortable and decent living (with respect to the rest of us). And in return, we ask you to serve us: to treat us when we fall sick, empathize with us when we lay on our death beds.? That?s all we ask of our doctors. Nothing more. At the end of six good years what did we get? A bunch of ungrateful beings!

The poor cocoa farmer who barely can afford the so-called ?three-square-meals-a-day? sacrificed his or her income to foot your medical education. For six good years, the poor farmer never complained; they never felt discouraged footing your bills. And what did they get in return? You treat them with disrespect. He comes to your office to seek your services and you yell and insult him. You treat him like trash! And you lack the decency to respect your own Oath. When you took the Hippocratic Oath you promised to DO NO HARM, to do your duty to your patients to the best of your abilities, and to bring honor to this noble profession. But you?ve done conversely. You?ve been more than arrogant. You?ve abandoned duty and done harm to your patients, just for your own parochial benefit ? just to fill your pockets with filthy lucre. It?s filthy lucre because you earned that money at the expense of human lives. Each time you embark on a strike action and refuse to do your duty ? to treat the sick ? and as a result blackmail your employers to kowtow to your whims many lives are lost. Therefore, what you achieve as the result of your strikes is nothing but blood money. And your God will surely ask that of you. He will require every such blood from your hands.

I wonder if they teach Medical Ethics in our medical schools. Or is Medical Education in Ghana just about the science part of the profession and therefore no Humanities is covered in the course curriculum? Or else, how do we explain how we managed to create such unconscionable citizens when we thought we were creating intelligent leaders with empathy for their benefactors and a sense of patriotism? How did we manage to raise such people without conscience after we ?wasted? our resources on them? Six years of education in a noble profession and they come out with only ?money? on their minds. They don?t care about us. They only care about us ? their patients ? when their pockets are lined with money. How sad!

The relationship between a doctor and the patient is a fiduciary type of relationship. It?s a relationship that is of the highest standard. It?s unlike that of a business person and their client. No it is not! One preacher rightly said, ?the two professionals a person should fear are pastors and doctors. The former can cause your eternal damnation and the later can cause your premature death.? Hence, in every society doctors are held to the highest of standards. And it?s for this reason that the new Labor Law made it illegal for doctors to abandon their duty and go on strike ? for this action means that lives would be lost. If any doctor values his or her own monetary interests better than the life of the patient they treat then that doctor is in the wrong profession. Period! They should not be practicing medicine. For they are bad doctors! Doctoring goes beyond the prescription of medication, or the performance of a surgical procedure. A good doctor is a healer! He works on both the body and soul of the patient. A good doctor is not only concerned about the physiologic ailment or the pathology of the patient, but also factors into his or her consideration the socio-economic status of the patient in formulating any plan of treatment. A good doctor takes a holistic view of the patient. A good doctor does not withhold services because of the inability to pay and surely does not hold his patients to ransom and use them as pawns as he or she seeks to basically ?con? the government to do his or her desires.

When you put on your white lab coat, and carry yourself around in your position as a Physician the responsibility you bear goes beyond that of your duty to the patient. Yes it does! For God will require of your hands every decision you took or did not take. A Physician, like a religious leader or a pastor, has been called into a profession that seeks to perform a duty on behalf of the Almighty. The duty to heal the sick is the duty of God Almighty. But God being merciful has given man the honor to partake in this Divine duty to heal just as He has also given other men the opportunity to join Him in the saving of souls from eternal damnation; so that man would share in the Divine blessings that go with such a sacred duty. Hence, the ultimate ?employer? of every Physician is the Almighty God. And the earlier our doctors keep this in mind, the better it is for their own selves and their profession.

After six years of medical education, when our junior doctors or house officers were putting their signatures on the contractual agreement between themselves and their employer, the government, what did they think they were doing? Signing a bogus document? Did they not read that document before they appended their signatures to it? What does that speak of them if they didn?t read the document prior to signing it? Wasn?t it stated, crystal clear, that ?you would not be paid feeding allowance during the period of your internship?? What part of that do they not understand ? so that we may call on a class 6 pupil to explain it to them? And wasn?t it also stated in their appointment letters that ?as an essential service provider, it is illegal to embark on any strike, as stipulated in Section 161 of the Labour Law, 2003?? What?s wrong with them now? How could they refuse to work for 8 good days (February 23rd ? March 3rd) with the demand that they be paid ?feeding allowance?? What makes them think that they can commit an illegality by breaking the Labour Law and at the same time force the government?s hand to set a bad precedence by reneging on its agreement with them? Do they have any sense of ethics? I?m seriously disappointed in them!

I have the utmost respect for the medical profession. For it is a time honored profession. But I have absolutely no respect for doctors who cannot see beyond money. Yes I don?t! But I do know that a significant number of our doctors are men and women who do their work daily, guided by the highest ethical standards of the profession. And this is a great source of encouragement to me. To these good doctors, I say ?Ayeekoo?. God will bless you for your sacrifices. The blessings may not be in monetary terms, but may be in the form of longevity, quality of life, etc. Or it may even be in the form of blessings to your own children and your loved ones. However, to those who see this noble profession only as a means to get rich, I?ll beg of them to reconsider your stance or thinking. For it will do you and your patients no good! Your constant threat of strike is demeaning your profession and is bringing it to disrepute, to your own disadvantage. Very soon society may give up on you, cut you loose and damn the consequences, and say, ?for so long we?ve been ?doing the impossible for the UNGRATEFUL. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing?? ? the Metro Para Pledge.

I call on our doctors to remember their oath! And to also remember, ?There is no duty more obligatory than the repayment of kindness? ? Cicero (Roman author, orator, and politician 106 BC ? 43 BC). They should never forget the poor cocoa farmer who made it possible for them to achieve their aim of becoming doctors; the poor farmer who financed their education. Thoughts of him or her should be present on their minds as they decide to abrogate their duty for selfish ends. Finally, may ?God bless thee [our doctors]; and put meekness in thy mind[s], love, charity, obedience, and true duty! ? William Shakespeare.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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