Monday, October 18, 2004

Medical malpractice

Medicine man Posted by Hello

Pic: A preserved eel, whose oily immersion is mixed with other herbs to prepare concoctions for various ailments. This medicine man seen peddling his wares by the road side often by the accompaniment of loud sale pitches with claims of miracle panaceas. Kuantan, Pahang, 2004.

Today in the news was the tale of a medicine man who ran a scam to lure poor souls through offers of intensive IT courses. But the true intention was to use him as a human guinea pig to test out his medical concoction. Not only did he mislead the boys, he tortured them by tying them to the bed and even forcing them to drink urine. After being rescued, he was found to be suffering from bruises and abnormal skin rashes from his experimentations. I never imagined such scenes would be seen to this very day as it so chillingly similar to tales we hear of the era when the Japanese used Chinese citizens to test out germ warfare agents to the Nazis treatment of dehumanizing human life and on to extinguishing a race through genocide to American testing of Syphilis on it's own black citizens. Now it's here right in our own backyard.

Traditional medicine has a long history, many practices are still retained today and practiced by the wide spectrum of humanity. The case here is just shedding bad light on what is a valid and at times what some call their only alternative when conventional treatment fails. In China, traditional medicine has even been given a place of honour alongside the conventional sciences, universities offer courses in herbal preparation and body life point acupuncture is seen as an effective way to treat the body's imbalance. In India, ayuvedic treatment utilizing oil extracts and herbal massage theraphy is widely practiced. In Malaysia we are entertained by bare bodied men wrestling with snakes or piercing spikes onto their chest to show their effectiveness of their balms (a sight getting less common now). Some of us still seek the Chinese Sensei to treat muscular aches and sprains through the application of foul smelling wraps and the ever popular bomoh is a constant source of traditional knowledge and even some say, supernatural. Then not forgetting the other various holy men, pawangs, medicine men, shaman and spirit talkers who holds the collective knowledge of their people.

But we have enough cases of malpractices (hey they're not even registered) in traditional medicine to send shivers through our spines. Not a day pass by when we hear about the bomoh luring a girl and then molesting or even sexually assaulting her in his course of "treatment". Others believe conmen who sells them magic stones which is said to imbue them with good health and cure diseases only to find that their money was the only object to be spirited away later on. Are we that desparate that we succumb so easily to these people? These people preying on people's hope and vulnerability should be considered the scum of the earth but there's no end to them yet. So better be wary if we're ever to consider seeing one.


bayibhyap said...

Alternative medicare is fast gaining popularity all over the world and in Malaysia too. You would be surprised to find out its popularity in Malaysia. While this is good, one should still be careful about the unqualified practitioners. Some alternative medicines and methods of treatment may not have been proven reliable yet and caution should be exercised. Personally I find acupuncture very effective. So is ozone treatment.

The preserved eel scenario is a classic that had made its rounds all over Malaysia as early as the sixties.

Jeremy said...

One can sell medicine, or one can sell hope.

fishtail said...

Thanks for the series on the Philippines! Interesting read.

Bustaman said...

Like P.T.Barnum said "There is one born every minute" so there will no shortage of customers for these snake-oil salespeople.