Thursday, November 29, 2012

Medicine and the Culture of Life

A column in the Peace Weekly, which aims to help create a culture of life, deals with some serious medical issues . The writer of the current column, a doctor and a medical university professor, is a member of the Seoul Catholic Committee for Life.

The first issue discussed concerns patients who begin their treatment in Korea but then opt to go overseas for stem cell therapy. The facts, according to the doctor, are still in the experimental stage and yet there are some patients who stop successful treatment here in Korea and go to countries less advanced for treatment. The expense of being treated outside the country is great: transportation for the surgery and accommodations in the country put a great burden on the patient.  However,many patients see it differently, says the doctor,
they see the treatment in the home country lasting a long time and without any guarantee of success.

In Korea, having surgery that has not been approved by clinical testing is against the  law. These stem cell medical treatments have not as yet been proven, and yet many are convinced by the publicity that they are. The doctor feels they are  going overseas to commit suicide. We should be very slow to accept claims of cure and he wants the citizens to become familiar with the facts.

The second issue is the use of secret formulas to treat disease. In Korea, there are many  ways of being treated for disease. This is publicized by the newspapers and by many other media. The sick hear of a certain medicine, a person with the same disease was healed by taking the medicine and, consequently, the sick person wants the medicine. It is very common response. But the doctor says he has treated many from the side effects of these self-prescribed medicines.

The medicines are usually extracted from plant life and not just one ingredient but a mixture of many that can have an effect on the living organism. Consequently, they should also be tested clinically before use.

The third issue was clinical tests for medicines, both for adults and children. There is a difference in the   results of  medicines given to children, who are still growing, and to adults. There are medicines that are allowed for adults but not for children. This requires that we have tests for both groups, says the doctor. Some of the   companies have difficulty with the tests because of the time necessary and the expense. And since the adults make up most of the consumers the tendency is to want to avoid the clinical test for children. This requires, concludes the doctor, that these companies be cognizant of their ethical mission in the production and marketing of medicines.

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