It is a scary thought that doctors in the country sometimes operate with complete immunity from being held accountable for medical negligence, which is now being considered one of the primary reasons that Pakistan holds the record for the most stillbirths, according to a report by Save the Children titled Ending Newborn Deaths. Another report by Unicef identifies Pakistan as number 26 on the list of countries with the highest infant mortality rate. This is a matter that requires thorough investigation at a systemic level and a reevaluation of the quality of our maternal, prenatal and neonatal healthcare systems.
The phenomenon of doctors delaying deliveries without reason needs to be questioned. In developed healthcare systems, expecting women are scheduled for several medical appointments prior to their due dates so as to ascertain that their pregnancies are progressing in a healthy manner. Delivery procedures are pre-poned or postponed due to valid, documented medical reasons only. Contrastingly, in Pakistan, doctors have been known to turn patients away at will without providing valid reasons. Such physicians need to be taken to task as they fail to fulfill the most basic requirement in the medical profession: upholding the Hippocratic Oath, which maintains that doctors will vow to treat patients in an ethical manner.
It is important that we examine the reasons that Pakistan tops the list in such rankings. The fact that these rankings point to medical negligence elucidates the need to mitigate such incidents by developing a medical policing board. Such a policing board would work to implement medical malpractice laws and hold doctors accountable for mistakes. Thus far, doctors in the country have enjoyed a lack of check and balance on medical malpractice. It is now important that the various provincial health departments take notice of this state of affairs and work to develop a strong healthcare system that incorporates patient rights and does not give full immunity to hospitals and doctors.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2014.
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