13.12.2002 | Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov

Irresponsibility is a disease… of medicine


The Kharkov Group for human rights protection receives many complaints concerning the quality of medical aid. Coming across violations of rights of patients and doctors we observe a helpless situation in the branch, which is perhaps the most important for citizens and state.

Recently we have received a complaint from Irina T. living in a little settlement near Cherkassy. Even members of the Kharkov Group, who got accustomed to all kinds of wild abuses typical of our life, were shocked.

The matter was as follows. In her complaint Irina describes such facts: two years ago she became ill. The symptoms were: weakness, frequent headaches, her capacity for work diminished. Endocrinologists made the diagnosis: a disease of the thyroid gland -- nodular goitre. Doctors prescribed a therapy, but there was no improvement. Irina learned that a very good doctor, „professor“, who agrees to treat thyroid gland, works in Cherkassy. Irina turned to this doctor. Being ignorant in medicine Irina was not surprised that the „professor“ receives patients in a drugstore and agrees to treat almost every disease: people with different illnesses stood in a line. Having examined Irina the „professor“ assured that she would cure her during half a year and proposed to do it by massage of the thyroid gland. It is easy to guess that neither in six months nor in a year Irina became better, on the contrary -- the nodes enlarged and became harder. Then the „professor“ told that a year is not sufficient, and the massage must be prolonged for another year. Irina got frightened since after the procedures the bruises appeared on her neck, and she felt herself worse and worse. Fortunately, Irina’s husband found a job in Kyiv and began to earn enough money to take his wife for a medical consultation in the capital.

The first examination in the state endocrinology center that Irina’s disease became more virulent as a result of the „treatment“ with massage – the node became malignant. Irina was urgently operated, then she was treated with radioactive iodine. Irina became a second group invalid, she is unable to work. Who will be responsible for this? Neither Irina herself nor her family can afford to turn to court – they have not enough money and energy…

Why the oblast and town medical directorates of Cherkassy disregard how swindlers from medicine maim trustful patients? The question is rhetorical…

We observe the same sad picture in Kharkov, which once was famous with its medical school. Several years ago patient Natalya D. was treated in a small cozy private clinic headed by doctor Akimov, a specialist in ultrasound examinations. The patient suffered from a malignant blood disease. Doctor Akimov examined the sick woman and, having done all the necessary analyses in some laboratory, found a rather exotic disease – histoplasmosis, and agreed to treat the disease. The treatment cost Natalya’s life, since when she turned again to the official medicine, the time was lost. Why is it possible in our country? Why do all kinds of healers and quacks flourish? First of all, because a patient gets into a vicious circle of irresponsibility, since neither official nor non-traditional medicine carry responsibility for the results of treatment. Secondly, the official medicine demonstrates its helplessness so often, that citizens do not trust it and turn to various quacks. Besides, now it is important whether the sick can afford official medical aid. I know a family, which treated their son’s kidneys for several years using quacks’ services, since they had no money for doctors and medical drugs. There are other reasons too: I know about well-to-do patients, who for years wandered from one official medical „magician“ to others, wasting heaps of money, and, after all found a healer, since they were disappointed with the results the traditional medicine. And not in vain. The level of medical aid cannot be high, when no one is responsible for nothing, when the information about the world achievements in this branch are not mastered. How can it be, you will ask. The Internet now can carry to anyone interested the newest information. Yet, our doctors are very poor as all budget-paid people. They are not only poor, but also overloaded, they already do not believe that the prestige of their profession will ever grow and their work will be respected by the state. A medical doctor cannot feed his family and even survive himself for the salary of 200 UAH per month (less than 40 USD, which is the salary of a highest category physician). So, a doctor seeks where he can to earn an extra kopeck instead of learning new achievements in his profession. Rank-and-file doctors try to earn money wherever they can, but stars of the profession having private practice do not feel any competition, and this spoils. Besides, any mistake may be explained with a bad laboratory base, which is really archaic, the needed apparatuses are absent.

Thus, desperate clients search for alternative ways. That is why quacks assuming various names: professors, healers, magicians, wizards, etc., blossom as never.

I am not against folk potions, on the contrary, I support such methods, if real professionals use them: homeopaths, physiotherapists, who have needed knowledge and experience.

But the trouble is that immorality and ignorance grow on the same soil – such as in the case of Irina T. And here we may say assuredly: we have what to reproach the state about. It does not protect its sick citizens either when it pays misery salaries to medical specialists or when it refuses to control the practitioners of both traditional and non-traditional medicine.

In Russia, in St.-Petersburg, 700 claims were handed to courts against medical doctors, the majority of the claims were satisfied. We will never tear this vicious circle of irresponsibility unless we do the same.

If at last the Ukrainian Parliament adopts the law on insurance medicine, which will account for the Ukrainian realities and, at the same time, will answer the European standards, then it will help to create the real competitive medicine. Then, we hope, such wild cases as the case of Irina T. In Cherkassy will not be possible.

Now we are going to pass the complaint of Irina T. to the Ministry of Health protection. We shall inform our readers what answer we shall get.

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