Trick or treatment?

A prominent Dubai newspaper ran a front-cover story last week accusing “unethical doctors” of swindling patients out of money. A senior DoHMS official, who vowed to bring offenders to justice, said the chief crimes were unnecessary tests, superfluous surgery and over-prescription of medicines.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  June 12, 2006

Trick or treatment?|~|Drugs2.jpg|~|Over-prescribing has become prevalent, says a Government official|~|A prominent Dubai newspaper ran a front-cover story last week accusing “unethical doctors” of swindling patients out of money. A senior DoHMS official, who vowed to bring offenders to justice, said the chief crimes were unnecessary tests, superfluous surgery and over-prescription of medicines.

“Doctors should not require blood tests or x-rays unless their ability fails them,” he told the paper.

It’s an act that has been referred to as ‘defensive medicine’. The term refers to a situation where doctors, afraid of litigation, leave no stone unturned to diagnose, treat and cure a patient. Parties tend to divide into those who
believe doctors are lining their pockets with the proceeds of unnecessary treatment (our Department official is a card-carrying member of this group), and those who simply see it as thorough medicine.

The role of a doctor is rarely an easy one. Often (contrary to media reports) overworked and underpaid, many exist in a climate where the ease of suing, counter-suing and accusations of misdiagnosis gives new meaning to the phrase ‘bad day at the office’.

While defensive medicine might not be the ideal, the cost of an extra test, recovered from the over-inflated pockets of insurers, is hardly too high a price to pay for the chance of early diagnosis. And as the Government is certainly not footing the bill (had the tests revealed anything serious, any expat would be peremptorily plonked on the next plane home) who is it hurting?

Until the Government decides to extend complementary healthcare beyond select nationals, it seems strikingly inappropriate for it to slam the only system available for being “unethical”. The private sector may have its flaws, but it’s markedly better than the (non-existent) alternative.

Excess testing? It certainly gets my vote.

Joanne Bladd, deputy editor (joanne.bladd@itp.com)||**||

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