First and foremost, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to those involved in the search and rescue mission for MH370. Their hard work and sacrifice for the sake of those unknown to them is highly appreciated.
Although I do not know the nature of a search and rescue mission like this but after much listening and watching, as a doctor, I could empathise and feel for what they are facing.
I’m sure most of my colleagues have similar experience.
For us working in hospitals, patients would come in unwell, for one reason or another, we diagnose them with certain conditions, give treatment and hopefully in a few days time, we could discharge them home, in a better shape.
However, for some people, it is not as easy as that.
There are patients who have persistent fever despite having given antibiotics, even when the antibiotics given are changed to stronger ones. When it persists, we’d need to start investigating again, to search for the source of fever and give the right medication or treatment. We would need to take more blood samples, do some scans, sometimes proceed with other invasive, more complex procedures, even with surgery, to be able to get the answer.
Sometimes patients might have abscesses but despite drainage, the fever doesn’t come down. At times we could not find the type of bacteria causing the infection, making it difficult to decide on which antibiotics to use, sometimes empirically given.
At times we could not even find the source of infection, even after two or three weeks in the hospital.
The same goes as cancer. After doing some scans, some growth could be seen but biopsy may be inconclusive. Or even when the biopsy says cancer, we could not get the actual origin of cancer as the cells were so badly mutated.
Believe me, we would ask for other expert opinion, from different teams, and even different hospitals, to make sure that all possibilities have been explored and all areas have been covered.
Sometimes time would run out, patients get more ill and somehow we could not get the answers we wanted.
No, doctors don’t know everything, and even with current technology, we can’t say we could detect everything that has gone wrong.
That’s not the only problem. Conveying the message that we couldn’t find the answers to patients and their families could be difficult. They would be more and more frustrated as their loved ones become more unwell.
Those who understand the mysteries of life and limitations of human capacity would be able to accept our shortcomings, but not all of them do. Some become angry, demanding quick answers that we wish we could have given to them, threatening to sue or lodge a complaint. Some become anxious and unable to let the doctors do their jobs, asking the same questions every few hours despite given the appropriate explanation.
Some would give unreasonable suggestions that is not suitable for the condition or situation, and some might refuse investigations, thinking that doctors were treating them as “guinea pigs” when in reality, we’re trying to search for the answers via various means.
Even worse, some might resort to other methods, other opinions which could be from non-medical professionals trying to sell them expensive supplements and wonder drugs, or “bomoh” (shaman) who, most of the time, have better communication skills than many doctors but no idea what they were doing.
Some patients and family members refuse certain treatments or investigations because of advice given, or stories heard, from people around them. Most of the time, they thought they know medicine just because they frequently visit the hospital or have friends who have similar diseases or they are member of multilevel marketing companies selling wonder drugs that could cure all illnesses.
Sadly, some refuse to comply to therapeutic medications just after reading a few hadith from Prophet Muhammad SAW, claiming that all they need is “natural, Islamic remedies”, while not even being aware of the basis of Islamic medicine. They are not aware of how people like Ibnu Sinna, Ibnu Qayyim Ajjauziyah (and many other Islamic medical scholars of old) did their researches. They are not aware of the complexities of human body that could not be cured by “just depending on honey and habbatus sauda”. Much of the modern medical research (without them realizing it) is evidence based, the similar way that Prophet Muhammad’s Hadith are researched.
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Back to searching for the lost aircraft.
I notice that not only people are sad, angry and frustrated, they try to speculate and if they could, intervene with the search and rescue mission. Many think they could have done better, even better than those experts who are involved in the mission. Many make unreasonable speculations and inappropriate remarks about the loss and the mission. There are those who have sceptical response to everything our national leaders are telling us, or even when the professionals speak.
I wish, and urge my fellow countrymen, to leave it to the professionals in searching for the missing aircraft. Although some sources are not reliable, but I’m sure they are doing their best to look for the missing plane as soon as they could.
Last but not least, I would want to extend my prayers for loved ones of the passengers and crew of the missing MH370, so that they will stay strong through this ordeal.