Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lack of Doctors and the Culture of Life

One of a series of articles on the culture of life in Korea linked the lack of doctors as a problem. The article in the Catholic Peace Weekly by a professor emeritus had some interesting facts to relate.

In recent years there have been frequent law suits for operating on the wrong organs, mixing up medical charts and prescriptions, and operating with contaminated instruments. Increasingly, families of the patients are going to the press with these complaints.

In Seoul the hospitals connected with universities have the best reputations, and it is not uncommon to have over 300 outpatients examined by a doctor in one day. Doctors are too busy, overworked and constantly tired. In comparison to other developed countries, the number of doctors in Korea is small: 1.7 doctors per 1,000 population. The average, according to the OECD ( Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), is 3.1 per 1,000. The ratio in the U.S., which continues to import doctors, is 2.4 per 1,000. Korean doctors examine 4.6 times more patients than the average in the U.S. and in comparison to Sweden it is 8.8 times more.

The professor lists 4 problems that highlight the areas needing correction:

1) Doctors are overworked (as the above figures show), find it difficult to treat the sick in a kindly manner, and often fail to give them a satisfactory medical explanation for their condition. Doctors do not have time to keep up with the newest medical knowledge. All of which ultimately affects the doctor's health and the patient's dignity suffers.

2) The supply of doctors does not keep pace with the need; popular areas of medicine do better.

3) With the population generally living longer, there will be a demand for more doctors--Korea has one of the highest rates of ageing of all countries.

4) A report, published each year from 1983-2004, states that during any one year if those who were sick were given proper medical care, lives would have been extended --number of doctors is not unrelated to this assessment.

That the Korean Church has made the lack of doctors a part of the culture of life movement is an interesting fact. Abortion is still the number one issue, but the Church also sees it as relating to a much larger issue where life itself does not receive the respect it should. The professor would like to see the government take an interest in this matter.

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