Unacceptable conduct | Daily News

Unacceptable conduct

The refusal by medical specialist Dr. Ranil Jayawardena to treat Public Security and Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga will be considered by all right thinking citizens of this country as a major slur on the entire medical profession. Indeed, it certainly is a sad day for the medical profession which is treated with high esteem by the general public.

It is not only against medical ethics but also an act devoid of human feelings which members of the medical profession are normally credited with. Doctors should be colour-blind politically speaking and they should not allow their political biases interfere with their profession. A doctor should be the last person to entertain prejudices politically or otherwise.

After all, he/she is responsible for the lives of patients and no doctor can treat a patient effectively if he/she is biased towards a patient politically or otherwise. According to our front page report yesterday, quoting medical experts, the refusal by Dr. Jayawardena to provide medical treatment to Minister Ranatunga at a private hospital in Colombo is a blatant violation of medical ethics.

Commenting on the matter, Dr. Rukshan Bellana, President of the Government Medical Officers' Forum (GMOF) said Sri Lanka is a country that even treated LTTE cadres knowing they were terrorists. He stressed that the health service of this country was acclaimed the world over and that the conduct of Dr. Jayawardena in refusing to treat the Minister would now jeopardize this reputation. According to Dr. Bellana, at the time medical doctors take their oath they pledge to treat all patients equally and no doctor should or could treat patients selectively.

True, all politicians have presently incurred the wrath of the public and for good reasons. They have also become objects of public hate for their lavish lifestyles at public expense. People are today demonstrating against politicians to vent their feelings of anger due to the high Cost of Living and the chronic shortage of essential items. Politicians have also not endeared themselves to the public by their behaviour in Parliament. Politicians are also known to be corrupt and squander away public funds.

But none of these can justify the conduct of a doctor in refusing to treat a politician whatever the feeling he/she may harbour against politicians. Doctors also in recent times have failed to stand up to scrutiny and have engaged in questionable conduct such as issuing bogus medical certificates to influential personages and politicians sentenced to prison by the Courts of Law, so as to facilitate their admission to hospitals instead. Doctors also have blotted their copy book by resorting to strike action at the drop of a hat against all ethics and putting innocent patients into hardship.

Now we have doctors refusing to treat a Government Minister perhaps due to political bias which should be furthest from the mind of an educated medical professional who is obliged to treat all alike as per the calling of the medical profession. Since the doctor concerned is affiliated to the Government Health Service, the Health Ministry should take up this matter seriously and issue a reprimand at least, so that others of his ilk may not repeat such conduct in the future. One's political preference should not be the basis of accepting or refusing to treat patients by any doctor who has taken the oath. As already mentioned, what the doctor concerned has done is damaging a reputed and respectable profession.

Healing the sick is a noble deed and only a very few have been granted this honour which any doctor should be justifiably proud of. Equally, humbleness is a virtue that all doctors are expected to cultivate that goes with their superior learning and education. The conduct of Dr. Jayawardena, therefore smacks of arrogance for which he should be ashamed of. Needless to say, after this, the public are certainly going to change their minds on all members of the medical profession and treat them with less respect and honour.

As the GMOA has stated, what Dr.Jayawardena had done was not humane. Besides, the refusal to treat a patient is an unprecedented act generally not associated with the medical profession. The doctor concerned owes an apology to Minister Ranatunga, who after all, is a public representative. It is also reported that the Minister waited in line for his turn just like any other patient.

It is not known whether refusal to treat a Member of Parliament is a violation of Parliamentary Privileges. Perhaps the Speaker ought to take note and ascertain if this is so. Hatred towards politicians should in no way be a reason for a doctor to refuse treating a politician. Anybody holding a grudge against a politician is free to reject him/ her at an election. Certainly, there are ways in which displeasure towards politicians could be demonstrated by means of protests.

The doctor concerned at least should have stated the reasons why he was refusing to treat the Minister. It is not a case of a right granted to a doctor whether to treat a patient seeking his services or not. A medical professional has no such choice at all.


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