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Patients play a part in eroding medical ethics by offering bribes

Update: January, 14/2012 - 09:25

Viet Nam Federation of Medical Associations chairman and former Deputy Minister of Health Pham Manh Hung spoke to the Dai Doan Ket (Great Solidarity) newspaper about bribes in the health sector.

How big a problem is bribery in the medical profession?

Not all of doctors and healthcare workers are willing to accept money from patients. Some are chased and forced to take the money at all costs. Others are motivated to profit from patients' pain when patients are forced to wait for a very long time for treatment, receiving unnecessary medical tests, or scolded or treated coldly by doctors.

The persons giving the money also have different motivations. Some give a gift of money to their doctors as a sincere thanks after they or their relatives have been cured, supposing that the doctors would use the cash for something they need. Others insist doctors must accept their money right before a challenging operation. This is a kind of ‘contract', and doctors are then ‘obligated' to save the patient's life. In such cases, doctors are in sensitive position if they fail and can lose face.

The envelop of cash can't be blamed for the problem in large, central hospitals. The problem is how givers and receivers treat the envelop.

So how do you think doctors and patients should treat the envelop full of money?

The WHO talks about the problem in terms of medical professionalism. I think the first criterium of medical professionalism is that ‘patients come first'. Patients place all their trust in doctors, so doctors should do anything they can to save patients. Patients should only thank doctors, with sincerity, after they have been cured. If not, they are helping ruin the medical ethics of doctors and healthcare workers. The act of giving a bribe should be considered a crime because it is as serious as the doctor profiting off of the suffering of patients.

You have described bribery in hospitals a chronic social disease. Do you think it's curable?

I said it is a chronic disease as it has been left untreated for quite a long time. I also said it is a social disease as many people seem to become infected by it at some time or other. I do believe that it is curable once the Party imposes a comprehensive strategy on healthcare services. — VNS

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