Case one: On July 12, 2011, doctors in Team Hospital, Dadeldhura perform intestinal surgery on 42-year-old Dev Bahadur Sarki. But post-operation, instead of relief, Sarki started feeling pain in his tummy. When his stomach was opened up again, doctors found, to their horror, a pair of scissors inside. Sarki had to bear with the pain for six more months and had to pay another hefty sum to correct Team Hospital doctors’ fault. Case two: A few months ago, famed economist Dr Bishyambher Pyakurel was diagnosed with brain hemorrhage in a reputed hospital in Kathmandu. The hospital kept him in observation for weeks before Pyakurel, dissatisfied with his treatment, decided to go to Bangkok for further treatments. The doctors in Bangkok apparently told Pyakurel he had never had a brain hemorrhage, not at any time in his life. But before he decided to pack up for Bangkok, Pyakurel had already spent Rs 1.5 million in treatments at the Kathmandu hospital.
Case three: Last November, doctors in BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital, Bharatpur removed the uterus of one Chham Kumari Bohara. The only problem was: her uterus was just fine; it was her thyroid glands that needed an operation. Due to this inexcusable negligence Bohara will be unable to conceive for the rest of her life. Such cases of what look like willful neglect have become all too common in Nepal, making people doubt the quality of treatment they get even at reputed medical establishments. Often, patients who visit hospitals, be they private or public, are either wrongly diagnosed or prescribed with wrong medications. This has in turn led to a natural decline in the trust of medical doctors among Nepalis.
So far the response of the concerned hospitals to these worrying developments has been irresponsible, to say the least. It is true that sometimes relatives of the wronged patients take to vandalizing hospital and manhandling doctors to vent their ire. But the abovementioned cases are ample indication that there have also been serious lapses of medical ethics. Whenever cases of neglect have been brought to the fore, the hospitals have promised to look into individual cases and have ensured the public such mistakes wouldn’t be repeated. But these promises are quickly forgotten.
But the irresponsible hospitals are not the only culprits here. If anything, it isn’t unsurprising that they have overlooked guidelines when there is no oversight body to look over their actions; neither is there any strong legal mechanism to punish negligent medical care providers. While professional bodies like Nepal Medical Association (NMA) speak up for the doctors’ rights, there is no similar body where the victims of medical neglect can lodge their complaints. It was always unwise to leave the medical establishments, most of them profit-oriented, to monitor themselves. Now that the number of neglect cases is steadily rising, the government should seriously think about putting in place strong legal measures against malpractice and guaranteeing adequate compensations for victims