Exploitation of patients

By Dr Khalid Al-Saleh

What makes me sad and angry the most is exploiting patients. This type of exploitation is the most heinous type of opportunism. The patient is in need, and his need is in the thing dearest to a human being – his health – so this type of exploitation cannot be ignored and can never be forgiven. The forms of patient exploitation varies, and the number of greedy people who only care about their interests has increased, and they are changing their methods and means.

Companies are lying about their research, others lie with their claims, while doctors discriminate between patients according to their social or financial status, or make the medical profession a commodity above humanity. Merchants sell harmful products, and decision makers are preoccupied with disputes away from patients. Legislators care about the votes of influential people at the expense of patients, and even those who attempt to help patients do so for money or fame without giving the patient his right. All these are forms of exploiting patients and images of opportunism.

I spent many years with cancer patients, and I did not see any other patient who are more exposed to exploitation. The reason for this is the danger of this illness and people’s fear of it, despite the fact that recovery rates from cancers of some types are good, and those who recover return to their normal lives as if they were not sick at all. But those who do not recover become more representative of the general image of this illness, to a point that cancer became a fertile ground for those who want to help patients, and regretfully for those who want to exploit them.

There is not a month or two without someone claiming or hastening the announcement about a new discovery or innovative medicine, and the result is giving false hope to patients that makes them stop their medication, with the result of losing their lives. This phenomenon is on the increase, and the number of those who paid with their lives has increased, so there must be a stand towards it.

There was a news item in the papers a few days ago, and it was dealt with on social media, about the discovery of a cancer medicine. Not only that, some said there is no need for chemotherapy. The report was about research on gold particles that is still under study and is not clinically approved, but of course, as what happened many times, some patients will be confused and may stop their treatment, and the result is disappointment and a dangerous risk.

Scientific research is a long series of experiments and it goes through several stages. The results of each stage are discussed at international conferences, and then receive approvals by international supervisory agencies. The human being is not a cheap commodity that any adventurer can deal with. There are good values that are still solid among us and the rest of the world.

Yet the problem remains with the media that is used to promote such claims. The solution is in cooperation between the lawyers’ society, medical association and cancer society to form a working group that monitors claims and takes them to court. The law protects our patients, and I hope Kuwaiti lawyers cooperate with us, as patients deserve all types of protection, as today we are in good health by the grace of Allah, but tomorrow we could be among them, also by the grace of Allah.

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