Monday, May 29, 2006

Problems of the elderly

Loneliss – man’s greatest fear

Lately I had the opportunity to meet an elderly couple whom I had known since I was young. They are in their eighties and staying all by themselves.

In my conversation with them I realized they have great fear of loneliness. They have everything they need – house, food, and clothing. All they long for is the company of children, grandchildren and friends. This is what they had to say:

“When you grow old nobody cares for you. You are forgotten even by your children. Every now and then I have to make spot checks to find out if all is well with my wife. Every morning I thank the good God for sparing her life for that day”.

I was very touched by the love and care the elderly gentleman had for his sickly wife of 60 years. He has cherished and preserved his sacred matrimonial wows faithfully all these years in good and hard times. This virtue of fidelity is a rare commodity nowadays where divorce is becoming the norm.

This fear of loneliness is not peculiar to this couple. I realize that many other elderly couples also share similar sentiments. The strange thing is that this fear is also a feature when we were children. As a child when we were fearful to be alone, our parents were there to console and reassure us. They did that willingly and with great love and passion.

But when they are in living in fear at the twilight of their lives, we as children are not there to comfort them. We are too busy with our jobs and families. We blame the fast moving and competitive society we live in.

It is true that life has become highly competitive these days and we have to spend a large part of our energy and time to make ends meet. At the same time we have to also give some importance to two great virtues called gratitude and sacrifice, only them can we can justify calling ourselves human.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tradional and complementary medicine

Accept only scientifically proven treatment

It was indeed gratifying for Director General of Health,Datuk Dr.Ismail Marican to publicly reassure the public at large on the care taken to introduce traditional and complementary medicine(TCM) in government hospitals, “Care taken on TCM” (Star May 24).

While agreeing that TCM is fast gaining popularity worldwide, this alone should not be the reason for introducing it in our hospitals. While commending the ministry of health for taking measures to ensure only safe, proven and high-quality practices will be allowed to operate, it is pertinent to stress that TCM should not be mixed up with the services of modern medicine in our hospitals. This would only complicate treatment for the unwary public especially those from the lower income group.

Who is going to advice patients on the choice of treatment especially for critical illnesses?. Will traditional practitioners recognize the limitations in their treatment?. As far as we know most of them claim that they have a cure for all ailments and they are immune from litigation for complications from their treatment unlike practicing clinicians of modern medicine. Can we, practicing doctors of modern medicine refuse to treat their complications for fear of litigation?

Enacting legislation, like the TCM Act, is good but it alone will not significantly ensure safety and quality of TCM practices. This has been shown by the numerous cases fraud and cheating employed by so called qualified traditional medical practitioners who in fact turn out to be “sinsehs” and “bomohs” who just resort to witchcraft, trickery and scams in the pretext of curing ailments.

The ministry should embark on extensive campaigns to educate the public to accept treatment based on scientifically proven principles and not succumb to unproven methods that may be fatal. We had spent much time, energy and money to bring modern evidence-based medicine to our people in the sixties and seventies.

By doing so we have eradicated deadly diseases like TB, malaria, syphilis, typhoid, leprosy, dysenteries and so on. We have greatly reduced our infant and maternal mortality rates. We have succeeded to a great deal in encouraging our people especially in rural areas to accept surgical treatment for cancers.

We did all these by introducing modern scientifically proven medical practices not by magic and witchcraft. We need to progress from here and not slide back in time and development thereby rendering futile all our efforts in the past. Modern medicine has advanced so rapidly that unless we focus all our energy and wealth to strive hard to keep up, we will be left behind.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, May 22, 2006

Constitutional protection for minority

Mob rule must be checked at all costs

I refer to your report “Stupid act! Protest against minority rights forum condemned”(NST May 16).

Although the strong condemnation by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nazri Aziz was reassuring, nevertheless it is not enough to quell the fears of ordinary peace loving citizens.

Indeed it is very distressing to know that a legitimate forum by law abiding citizens can be interrupted by mob rule in the very presence of the police who should provide the necessary protection.

Is this type of mob rule going to be the norm in the future? The thought of mob rule taking over the country sends shivers and fears among citizens who love peace and want to solve problems by negotiations and discussion in a civilized manner.

The federal constitution is the document that guarantees the rights of all citizens. If that itself is blatantly trampled upon by brutal means how can we expect to be given our legitimate rights as citizens of this country? There has been lot of talk of nationalism and patriotism, but are that only for certain groups?

The majority of Malaysians are sensible and law abiding and would engage in dialogue to solve whatever problems that surface from time to time. We should not allow a small group to upset the peace and harmony we have today. They should not be allowed to use the threat of violence to suppress the problems facing us.

The government, under the leadership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, should come out strongly against these people who resort to mob rule. The government must do more to stop the country sliding into lawlessness.The Royal Malaysian Police too should act firmly and fairly to protect the citizens against mob rule.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Our Florence Nightingales

Appreciate contribution of nurses

Nurses Day was celebrated on May 16, 2006.It passed quietly without any pomp and fanfare unlike Teachers Day.

To commemorate the occasion Health Minister Datuk Chua Soi Lek talks about the poor standard of nursing care in public hospitals and the measures he would take to remedy the pathetic situation.

Undeniably there is a decline in the quality of nursing care over the years. This is mainly due to the loss of vocation in the profession. Nursing the sick and the dying with empathy is not glamorous and unless one has the vocation she will not be able to emulate Florence Nightingale.

From the time our children step into school they are taught just to excel in studies and nothing else as becoming rich is the ultimate goal in life. Good virtues are not emphasized as they are irrelevant to present day success. In fact good values are a hindrance to material success today. In such an environment we cannot expect to cultivate the right attitudes for becoming a nurse.

Whatever their shortcomings, our nurses in general need to be praised and appreciated for their invaluable services to the community. There are still many nurses with a passion for helping the sick and we must salute them. We hope they can act as a catalyst to stimulate others in the profession.

All of us would need their services at some time or another. Even the richest and most powerful could be suddenly reduced to a helpless invalid by disease and become totally dependent on these poor nurses. They may not be our relatives or friends but are the ones always with us day and night, not only carrying strict medical treatment but also attending our calls of nature. To an extent we surrender our pride and dignity to them. Their nursing care contributes a great deal to our speedy physical and mental recovery.

Most of our nurses work under very adverse, unfriendly and stressful conditions. Very often they are managed in a regimental manner where dissent is very not tolerated by the superiors. They are forced to accept unfair decisions regarding work shifts, leave and overtime without protest.

The hospital management must realize that if they want their nurses to be patients-caring they too should care for their nurses. It’s always a mutual undertaking. In this respect I fully agree that making nurses more patient-friendly also means that hospitals will have to become more nurse-friendly.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, May 15, 2006

Spiritual healing

Accept scientific basis of treatment

I refer to your front-page report “Medium of abuse” (Star,May 15).

It is distressing to note that spiritual healing has become a big business and a duly recognized “profession” by the people.

Despite the frequent reports of abuses by these spiritual healers, people from all walks of life, from the ordinary man on the street to even top politicians are seeking the assistance of practitioner’s for their ailments. In fact,spiritual healing, is gaining popularity among the people and I hope the Ministry of Health will not introduce it into our hospitals as an alternative treatment.

In this modern era of science and technology, we seem to be going backwards to the time of witchcraft and magic to cure our ailments. If this continues what is going to happen to our dreams of becoming a developed nation by 2020?.

There is an urgent need to change the mindset if the people. We must be thought to think logically and accept only the treatment that has sound scientific principles behind them. The present developed state of the West is due solely to their research and achievements in science and technology. It was this advancement in science and not magic that resulted in putting man on the moon.

The government must monitor the activities of these spiritual healers and take appropriate action to stop it from further abuse. The major thrust is on the people to reject unsound practices which are not based scientific but on weird “spiritual” believes.

It is more important to educate the people to be careful in seeking these alternate forms of treatment. Our education in schools should be more science based and religious teachings should encourage the scientific thinking in all fields including the basis diseases.

Not all diseases are curable and we must accept this basic fact.Malaysians must strive to understand the medical basis of their illness. If we do so, we will not succumb to the false attractions of spiritual healing in our quest for a cure.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Philosophy of life

Life is too precious for petty squabbles

Over the last two months I witnessed two catastrophes that made me ponder on the meaning of life.

The first was a close relative of mine who at the age of 48 had an attack of massive brain stem stroke that has left him in a vegetative state requiring the help of a respirator to keep him alive.

This has resulted in the life of his wife and two young children being shattered and torn. They not only have to carry on with their lives but spend much time and energy and money to fend for him.

The second catastrophe involves a good friend of mine who at the age of 45 was admitted with acute renal failure, requiring ventilator support in the ICU. Only now I came to know that that he has been a diabetic for the last 10 years and not on proper treatment.

His family too, with very young children, has been thrown into disarray. He has to go for regular renal dialysis and life will never be normal again for him and his family.

These two experiences over such a short period have made me ponder on the uncertainties of life itself. Today we may be rich and mighty; tomorrow we become reduced to a helpless vegetative state. No amount of wealth or power can restore us back to normal.

Life today has become so competitive and we have to join in the pursuit of wealth in order to survive and get the comforts of life. In this pursuit, all moral and ethical values are irrelevant and brushed aside. In this race we become suspicious of one another. This results in we, fighting with one another over petty issues which causes break up of families and friends. We become obsessed with finding fault with everyone else except our own self.

We forget that are so many out there like the two cases I mentioned above who are helpless and waiting for death to free them from the suffering of this world. We have just to visit one such patient in the hospital to realize our folly to be preoccupied with our petty squabbles.

God must be sending us all a message in such calamities. He is asking us to put aside our petty problems and come together do alleviate the pain and suffering of fellow humans regardless of race or creed. We do not know how much time we have, as even tomorrow is so uncertain.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Modern versus traditional medicine

Choice of doctor tricky

It was really interesting to read that patients will soon have a choice of whether to seek modern or traditional treatment at selected government hospitals. Health Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Lee Kah Choon says this is the Health Ministry’s initiative to incorporate modern and traditional medicines into the national healthcare system. This is to provide more "holistic" medical care.

We hope the aim of this to introduce traditional and complementary medicine (TCM) move is noble and not politically motivated, which I’m afraid it may be so.

It is important to stress here that modern medicine is evidence-based medicine that is scientifically proven. We have to have an open mind to accept whatever that has sound scientific basis and only then can we progress further. In this respect traditional medicine has a long way to go before it can prove itself as an alternative primary modality of treatment especially of serious illness.

Regrettably there is already a trend in Malaysia where patients with serious diseases opt for traditional medicine as their first and only choice, only to realize too late that it was a fatal mistake. As practicing doctors we often encounter such a situation where patients come to us when traditional treatment has failed but by then the illness is too advanced for any curative treatment.

The health ministry has its hands full with numerous problems with providing quality modern medicine at its hospitals. These include the brain drain causing acute shortage of doctors, their salary scheme, the negligent and medico legal problems, the rising incidence of certain diseases, the occasional bursts of infectious epidemics and so on.

Furthermore the health ministry is finding it difficult in coming up with its own specialist register. It is unable to check its own doctors who falsely claim to be experts in certain fields and engage in all forms of unethical practices. We can imagine the chaotic situation we’ll be creating by allowing traditional practitioners in the same premises who do not possess proper accreditation or governing ethics.

In present day situation, even with modern medicine, the poor patients need the assistance of doctor friends to advice them in their choice proper doctors to consult for their ailments. With traditional medical practitioners in the same premises, we will need the help of divine powers to assist one to choose the proper doctor.

Dr.Chris Anthony
Monday April 24, 2006

The flawed ‘A’ syndrome

I REFER to the letter by Christine Lai “Are we sending the wrong message?” (The Star, April 17).

The gathering of all the smart pupils into one class to ensure the highest grades from that “best” class is a standard practice in most schools today. The best teachers are also reserved for this class.

This practice of selecting the only good students also happens at private tuition centres, as some tuition teachers actually reject weak students.

This is due to the “A” syndrome.

Schools do this to attain personal glory whereas private tuition centres do it to enhance their reputation, whereby through producing excellent results, they attract more students in subsequent years.

Who would want to sent their children to centres that do not get excellent results?
Gone are the days when extra coaching and tuition were only meant for weak students.
Today good tuition are only for smart students but such a privilege is not available to the weaker ones who really need such help and guidance.

The “A” syndrome has created a disadvantage to the students from the lower income families.
Quality private tuition has become so expensive that it is beyond the reach of these poor pupils. Private one-to-one home tuition is becoming a standard for those who can afford them.

Obviously, the chance of a student without these expensive tuitions of scoring straight As is much less than those who have those advantage.

Therefore, judging students based on merely the number of As without considering their socio-economic background would be rather unfair to those from poorer families.

Offering scholarships to only those with maximum As would offer an unfair advantage to those from affordable families who would have access to all the best tuition facilities.

There is a need to device a more comprehensive system to select candidates for scholarships and other awards, a system that takes into consideration the socio-economic conditions and not just straight As.

DR Chris Anthony
Patriotism has to nurtured

Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said the medical students must have a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, and should return home to serve the country after completing their studies. He also said that despite the lower financial reward in the government service, the students should be proud to serve the Government.

I fully agree with the minister but nationalism and patriotism should be cultivated from an early age just like how parents nurture them in their children from birth. The nation, like parents, must provide for her citizens all the necessary needs before it can expect undivided patriotism and loyalty. Like a child who refuses to return to his uncaring parents, students too do not return to their motherland on completion of their studies, as they are unhappy with the way they were treated.

These students do not possess a sense of belonging and the minister must find out this is so. The root cause of this pathetic state must be identified and addressed accordingly.

These students are unfairly accused of abandoning for higher remunerations overseas. I am sure the government cannot be so naïve as to seriously believe money is the only reason for their failure to return to serve the rakyat. Most of them become homesick and it is not an easy decision for them to stay away from their loved ones for long periods just for some monetary gains. In fact it is truly an emotion wrecking experience in most cases in making a decision not to return home.

Most of these doctors do not return because of frustrating and unfair working environment back home. The three most important factors that that provide incentive to work are appreciation, reward and opportunities based on merit. These doctors are not appreciated and rewarded appropriately for their services in their own country.

It is difficult to comprehend why when foreign countries are willing to reward our doctors with privileges equal to their own citizens, why our own government refuses to do so.
The solution is simple, treat your citizens with care and instill a sense of belonging in them, and they will respond with all the nationalism, patriotism and loyalty that you require of them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Uncle George and true love

It’s just an old-fashioned love story

ON a recent trip back to my hometown, I happened to meet an elderly gentleman, whom we fondly call Uncle George. I knew him when I was a schoolboy but I had not seen him for many years since.

His greatest trait was his perpetual cheerfulness. As a matter of fact, we never saw him angry or sad. Because of this, he was well liked by all, especially children.
He now lives alone with his wife, Grace, and spends all his time taking care of her, because an accident left her sickly and disabled. He cycles several kilometres a day to get food for himself and his wife.

I greeted him and invited him to join my wife and me for breakfast. His meal cost me just RM2.20.

As we ate, we chatted about old times, which brought pleasant memories. He told us about his family and his wife.

We listened patiently as he related how he cared for her and the problems he encountered. We wished him well and left.

A week later I was surprised to receive a letter from him praising my wife and I, praises that we don’t really deserve.

The following paragraphs from his letter really touched us:

Aunty Grace is not so good in health, she sleeps all the time. I am so frightened she will go off in sleep for good. Hardly do we have any visitors.
“This year I am 86 and my wife is 82. If we can live till Dec 28, we will be married for 60 years and we can celebrate our diamond jubilee.
“Yes, doctor, true love begins when we grow old; I think I love my wife more now than I first met her.
“But soon we will have to part.”

A mere two ringgit, a few encouraging words and the willingness to listen was all that was needed to touch a life in the form of Uncle George.

In return he gave us something which wealth cannot buy – his invaluable experience of true love.

His experience is a reminder to us that love, contrary to what we think, never fades, it only grows with time.

It also reinforces the fact that there are still a lot of good things in life that cannot be obtained with money and power – and that is God's greatest gift to us.

Dr Chris Anthony

Social crimes

Paying the price of rapid industrialisation

OUR current social problems and increasing crime rate are largely due to the very materialistic and consumerist attitude of society.
Today, society puts material wealth above everything else in classifying the social status of an individual.

Gone are the days when status was based on education, profession, personal conduct and contribution to society. A Division One government officer then was placed in high esteem even though he was paid a meagre salary.

Things have clearly changed.

This new culture has created the rapid pursuit of material wealth. Moral values seem to be almost totally irrelevant in this pursuit.

In their quest for wealth, many parents have forgotten or neglected their role in forging their children’s moral and ethical outlook. As a result, there is a decline in moral values in the younger generation.

Many have become selfish, rude and highly materialistic. There is disrespect for the elders, whose invaluable life experiences are brushed aside.

But can parents be solely to blame for neglecting their children's development?
Today, one has to pay a lot for basic, essential services like health, education, housing and transport. How can one earn enough without neglecting the family?

I believe the main cause of this unfavourable situation is rapid industrialisation.
In our enthusiasm to become a developed country, we have privatised all manner of services, including basic ones.

Instead of becoming more affordable, these services have become more costly and beyond the reach of the man on the street.

Parents now have to work harder and put in longer hours to provide for the education, housing and healthcare of the family.
Unless we find ways to reduce this burden on parents, our children will continue to be neglected.

Chris Anthony

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