Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Thin White Line

Malaysia, of course, like many other countries, faces a shortage of doctors. Even more scarce are doctors of courage and conscience. In fact, we had been quite convinced that there were none in Malaysia, until a group of doctors at Tung Shin Hospital proved us wrong today. They are, as reported in Malaysiakini, Musa Nordin, Sheikh Johari Bux, Ng Kwee Boon, Ng Swee Choon, Ronald Macoy, David Quek, Mary Cardozo, Farouk Musa, Mazeni Alwi, Pixie Low and Steve Wong.

For a noble profession, too many succumb to the temptations of money, position and sometimes power, rather than to the more onerous duty of dedication to their fellow man. This could be probably because they start off on the wrong foot, studying medicine for all the wrong reasons. Like for money, position in society or because their parents want them to.

In some cases, as in the A.Kugan case, the pathologist appeared to be complicit with the authorities in engineering a cover-up. From the MMA, he received a mere reprimand. In the Anwar trial, doctors appeared to have no qualms about bearing false witness or suppressing documents which would exonerate Anwar. Liow Tiang Lai, the Health Minister, exposed for a liar, took refuge in semantics and blamed those who briefed him. He will not own up to his mistake,a self-serving one. And he fails in his duty as Health Minister to safeguard all hospitals.

Those members of the medical profession who continue to remain silent in the face of an increasingly despotic government may have forgotten the following line in the Hippocratic Oath;
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

Doctors do indeed have a special obligation to their fellows, as do lawyers. Lawyers in Malaysia, to their credit, have not shirked their responsibility, unlike their timid brethren in Singapore. But doctors, until today, had not lived up to their oath, in Malaysia. Until the outrage of tear gas and acid water and violent arrests in Tung Shin Hospital.

Still, it has been left to a small group of them to protest. The MMA remains, shamelessly, silent.

Doctors can, and must stand up, for what is right and condemn evil whomsoever the perpetrator.

It is both their moral and Hippocratic duty.

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