Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is It All Worth It? (Random Ponderings On The Morong 43 Issue)

(This post should have adopted the more apt subtitle "Not Only Is It Frustrating, Being A Doctor Is Also Hazardous To Health", but damn it, it is too long.)

More than a week ago, I was preparing to leave my clinic when I decided to linger for a moment. I picked up the newspaper (I usually read the news online) and leafed through it until I saw the news about the 43 health workers abducted by the military in Morong, Rizal last February 6. (Read about it here, here, and here.)

I felt a pinch in my heart as I impulsively looked around. In my mind was the thought, I am here, perhaps a struggling specialist trying to create a niche in the medical world, and yet sitting comfortably in a well-equipped air-conditioned clinic, while 43 of my colleagues and fellow health professionals were being harassed by the military on accusations of being "communist rebels in training".

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At this point in my career, I should be over and done with this self-persecutory thought. It is a choice I have made years ago: a healer, regardless of time, location, social status, regardless of the disposition and affiliation of his patients, remains a healer. I can say that I have seen and served a wide spectrum of patient groups - from the very rich to the very poor - and not all doctors have had this privilege. In the end, I have made a choice to be in a specialty that I love very much.

However, regardless of choice - whether to be a specialist in the city, or a doctor in the countryside, here in the Philippines - I am quite certain: one way or another, this thought has crossed the minds of every person who chose to take up healing as a profession.

Is it all worth it?

Cases of healers being persecuted are not new occurrences. It should be remembered that Jesus Christ, the great healer himself, was persecuted and put to death by crucifixion. Healers did not really have it all too easy, whether they be based in the city or in the countryside.

However, the countryside doctors definitely had it worse.

In the Philippines, probably one of the most well-known cases of doctors as victims of killings and other human rights violations during the Marcos regime is that of Dr. Bobby De La Paz, a doctor serving the people in far-flung Samar who was gunned down in his own clinic by unidentified assailants. (Click here for archives regarding Dr. De La Paz's murder.)

[I will not even want to cite specific cases of doctors in the provinces who being harassed by armed men from both ends of the political spectrum. But true, it is happening, even at this day and age.]

I am aware of the hazards that medical practitioners in the countryside face, for I was once "out there", too. To be a practitioner in a city like Manila is hard in itself, and yet to be in impoverished areas is an altogether different matter. Being a doctor in the countryside is never just about doing medical missions and giving medications for free. It is, more than anything else, about people empowerment through knowledge of body functions, disease conditions, and ways by which they could help themselves.

The profession of healing in itself entails much time, thought, patience, and sacrifice. To be a community doctor requires even more. For this reason, I have enormous respect for the community doctor and all the members of the allied health professional who have chosen to serve the countryside.

Unfortunately, not even the doctor or anyone from the health field is spared from the crutches of political power struggle and breaches of human rights.

(Photos from my personal files. First photo, a nurse friend discussing the physiology of breathing to the Mangyans. Second photo, immunization in Montalban, Rizal.)


Bonedoc said...

well said doc. this sad story reflects how our culture of politics and guns supersedes that of health and its countrymen. We persecute heroes instead of supporting them...

gigi said...

priorities are often misplaced. then when something happens, people react (reactionary always)...then that is it. always the case with disasters, security breakdown, etc.

politics, guns, corruptions of all sorts, laziness to know the issues, moral breakdown...(we can go on and on)...our society has long been sick.

mas madaling gawing bayani ang mga sikat katulad ni pacquiao kaysa sa mga taong tahimik lamang na naglilingkod sa isang tabi :(

thanks for the visit bonedoc. puwede na ako ulit mag blog rounds :)