I REFER to the letter “How can docs refuse to treat a dying baby?” (The Star, May 18) in which the writer questions the ethical propriety of clinic doctors refusing to treat a seven-month-old abused child. As a specialist doctor in clinic practice, I wish to explain the medical reasoning behind their action.
Patients should realise the vital importance of seeking medical assistance from the correct place, especially in an emergency. As a cardiologist, I would be at a loss in attending to an accident victim who has a broken bone, and the best way for me to help would be call for an ambulance as quickly as possible.
I should not even offer the victim a drink since this may delay needed surgery.
It has been 27 years since I last attended to patients with broken bones, and a hospital assistant in the emergency department would be more competent than I in applying a splint.
Similarly, for doctors unfamiliar with small babies especially one badly abused, the most logical action is to ask the parents to take him to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. Patients must understand that sometimes giving advice is the correct medical action.
Actually in any emergency, patients should go to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible. Time should not be wasted seeking treatment at outpatient clinics, or to phone up doctors unable to assess the patient.
Doctors are guided by the medical truism “first do no harm” and it is this desire to do no harm that makes a doctor turn away patients.
The fact that this unfortunate baby died despite being sent to the hospital highlights the limitation of human medical ability, and testifies to the brutality of abuse. Society has a right to be unhappy and angry at the abuser who takes out his frustration on the helpless, but please spare the doctors from blame.
DR ONG HEAN TEIK,
Consultant Cardiologist, Penang.