Yemenis Must Educate Themselves to the Threats of Malpractice

National Yemen

Yemeni doctors do heart surgery in a local government hospital

By: Tahani al-Sabri.

Hundreds of Yemenis offer medical services to the sick and wounded. Unfortunately, the number of capable, qualified and honest medical practitioners may be far smaller.

Many so-called doctors simply intend to exploit their patient instead of protect their health, leading them to look after patients in a highly irresponsible manner. This treatment can sometimes worsen the patients’ conditions, in some instances even causing death. Even if patients should survive their botched treatment, however, they may emerge from their hospital visit with numerous infections or lifelong deformities.

Those who fake their medical credentials do not feel any sorrow or sympathy for their patients. Instead, they find reasons to run from their responsibilities if their patients ever discover their mistakes. When they are not discovered, they continue treating the patient, sometimes in an attempt to fix the damage they have already caused. Thus there is no true progress in treatment, and the patient loses.

Abd al-Aleem, a patient from Aden, visited the hospital after an accident, hoping for suitable treatment. He was very surprised to learn he had contracted HIV as a result of medical malpractice; he was injected with infected blood transferred to him without prior examination by a specialist. Al-Aleem thus became one of the most afflicted victims of medical negligence in Yemen.

Abd al-Aleem could find no solution for his case except to go to court and ask for justice, suing the Yemeni hospital. After hearing his case, the court awarded him an amount of money as compensation. The case drew much public attention in Yemen, and inspired the government to put a number of hospitals under direct control.

Ali Mahdi, 50 years old, entered a specialized eye hospital for an operation to correct his vision. After a poorly conducted diagnosis, Mahdi’s doctor diagnosed his patient as suffering from high blood sugar. Ali entered the operating room and looked forward to seeing his grandchildren in sharp relief after his procedure. He was disappointed to emerge from his surgery into a dark life; he had lost his vision completely.

Wahib, a seven year-old boy, was taken to the hospital by his family with a case of appendicitis. When the technician botched the anesthesia administration, the hospital had no mechanisms in place for emergency resuscitation. Wahib died on the operating table.

Dr. Nabil al-Twiati, neurosurgery and spine consultant said, “Medical error can happen with any doctor. There are two types of errors. The first occurs in diagnosis and can result in an error in treatment, whether treatment is surgical or carried out through administering drugs. These errors are never the intention of the doctor. Sometimes, the ambiguity of a patient’s symptoms or tests will throw off the best physician. If the error is one of treatment and there was no error in diagnosis, I expect that if the physician is experienced, the patient will be diagnosed and treated properly. If the error is in the remedial action, the doctor could make a mistake in his prescription or an error in a surgical procedure.

Dr. Abdullah Seed Bahatab, professor of medicine at al-Mujtama University of Public Health in Aden said, “no one can deny the occurrence of medical errors, both in private and government hospitals. These happen not only in Yemen in all the developed countries in the world. The error is one of human nature, but the issue lies in the nature of the issue. Is it a result of negligence or commitment or professional and moral standards? Was it other reasons?”

“It is known that any medical intervention or surgery carries with it the possibility of complications or side effects. This should be known to the medical team, and must be explained and clarified to the patient before proceeding to medical intervention. The patient should know of and approve of all risks, and the medical team should have prepared all the necessary precautions required by good clinical practice. There is no doubt that any damage caused to the patient as a result of negligence or dereliction of full commitment to professional and moral standards constitutes an offense to the patient, and the person responsible for such conduct should stand in front of the law.

Dr. Abdullah Murshid Ahdal, President of the Medical Association in Taiz, held the Ministry of Health and departments of hospitals responsible for the poor performance of doctors. In order to obtain his right to get a good rank in his specialization, he had to erect a tent in front of the Ministry of Health or participate in an extensive race to complete all the procedures needed for securing a desirable position and ranking in the area of his specialization.

Under the aim of protecting Yemeni patients, a group of volunteer lawyers has formed a committee for the defense of patients’ rights. This committee specializes in adjudicating against medical errors occurring in hospitals, clinics private and governmental and medical centers.

Osama Abdul Ilah Salam Alasbahi, head of the Justice Foundation of Law, said that the Committee was formed by ten male lawyers and five female lawyers to bring claims to judicial authorities. They aim to protect the rights of patients who are subjected to the abuse of medical errors resulting from negligence or failure in treatment. This provides an important service to Yemeni patients, as it is often difficult to prove medical error without legal assistance.