Commentary Local

When ignorance is not bliss

March 26, 2019

by Abdul Rahmat Omar

IT was exactly last week that I had lost a good friend.

Several months ago, he was warded in a hospital due to and was treated for pneumonia. About four months ago he had recurrent fever and bouts of bad headaches. Trips to the GP did not do him any good. But he bounced back about a month ago, came over to the house for dinner, his appetite was the usual excellent.

A week after that he went silent, calls and messages to him went mostly unanswered. Apparently, he started hallucinating, screaming in pain, at times his speech slurred, hearing was all but gone, and so was his eyesight.

He also had behavioural changes. All this led his family to believe that something paranormal was at work. So, they took him to see a bomoh for an answer.

In the end he had difficulty waking up and suffered extreme fatigue. When he had lost his appetite and was truly weak, his family decided to send him to a hospital.

Tests revealed that he was suffering from meningitis, which I assume to be pneumococcal meningitis given his bout of pneumonia a few months before that.

He died – a victim of ignorance.

Had the family brought him to the hospital at the onset of the bad bouts of headaches, he could have been saved.

I guess we are, from time to time, guilty of our own ignorance possibly due to our beliefs that invisible beings or traditions can be more effective than modern medicine.

It is not that I totally dismiss traditional medicine, but I would first put my trust in modern medicine to rule out anything and everything that can be cured by modern medicine.

Only if the patient sticks out a foot-long, black coloured-tongue from his or her mouth, or walk through a lattice grille, both of which I have personally witnessed, then an alternative treatment method should be sought.

Malays especially, still believe that one should not consume sugar during the full moon phase because ‘parasites breed during full moon and sugar becomes a catalyst’.

Such beliefs are being spread by self-proclaimed social media health practitioners without any scientific proof and data to back their claims.

Many also subscribe to anti-vaccine propaganda, putting the life of their children, and that of others, at risk.

They do not understand the concept of herd protection where, if only one is not vaccinated, the rest who have been vaccinated are safe.

But if many in a herd are not vaccinated, the chances of a communicable and contagious disease spreading to even those who are vaccinated, are high.

Last month, a two-year old child in Johor who was never vaccinated, contracted Diphtheria, died due to the disease.

Three others, a four-year old boy and girl, and a 15-year old girl who lived in the same house, also contracted Diphtheria due to the exposure.

Then, we have mothers or child who died due to home birth with a Doula present. Doulas in Malaysia are not regulated, not registered, not monitored, and not certified.

There is not even a registered association for Doulas that is registered with the Health Ministry!

The government has already provided midwives for expectant mothers, yet they prefer the services of Doulas because it is the trend.

A midwife is all that a Doula is not. Midwives are certified by the Health Ministry to perform gynaecological examinations, provide prenatal care, administer pain medications, give labour-inducing drugs, monitor the foetus using electronic equipment, perform an episiotomy, deliver a baby vaginally, resuscitate a baby, stitch tears.

What are Doulas? Just think of them as the pregnant mother’s temporary BFF to give nothing more than emotional support.

Many in Malaysia are YouTube-trained.

The government must take stricter measures to ensure that lives are protected from the likes of anti-vaccination proponents, and from uncertified Doulas who call themselves midwives.

In the case of the birth of a child, only temporary birth certificates should be issued at birth, a permanent one given when all vaccinations are received by the baby.

This should be made compulsory and the Health Ministry should work with the National Registration Department towards achieving this.

Doulas must be properly trained and certified to handle prenatal and postpartum emotional stress by the ministry and should have an association that is regulated and registered with the ministry.

The government should not take these issues lightly as lives are at stake. We must never allow ignorance to dictate us.

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