Monday, April 7, 2014

World Class Korean Medicine

A surgeon writing in the Seoul diocesan bulletin mentions that a doctor's best years begin when he turns 50. Wisdom, experience and technique all come together at that time, he says. Preparing for an operation, he disinfects his hands, reads the prayer he has tacked on his wall, and all his tenseness disappears. He is now ready, he says, to decide the best way to approach the surgery.

Thoracic surgery is his specialty. He was the one who introduced thoracoscopic surgery to the field 20 years ago and continued to develop the procedure in the following years. In the past it was necessary to make an incision over 20 cm wide and force the ribs apart with instruments. Today only a small cut is made to allow special micro-instruments to enter the body for the endoscopy.

With this procedure less of the skin is cut, resulting in less tissue damage; recuperation is quicker and there is less pain. The procedure is especially helpful for those who have weak constitutions and the elderly.

Korean doctors when compared to doctors in other countries have a good reputation in  performing these thoracoscopic surgeries. The reason, the doctor speculates, is that Koreans have been using  chopsticks to eat since childhood, giving them the manual dexterity that a surgeon needs to be successful.  Surgery in Korea, he says, is second to none wherever it is practiced in the world.

Thousands of operations have been performed with this thoracoscopic procedure, and recently there has been a great deal of success using it for cancer of the lungs. When  diagnosed early, the chances of extending life is very good. And one way to prevent lung cancer, the doctor reminds us, is not to smoke or to stop smoking if you do.

Korea began to provide health insurance for its citizens in 1977, which has developed into universal health insurance for all.  The country has good medical schools and a good distribution of doctors. Recently doctors have been against  government plans to allow for-profit hospitals and the introduction of telemedicine ( the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology). Doctors have been strongly opposed to this plan and have gone on strike to make their feelings known publicly.

There is little doubt,  that Korea is one of the leaders in many fields of  medicine, and that many patients will come to Korea for these procedures because they tend to be less expensive here, and performed with less trouble and greater competency than can be provided in the patients' own country.  

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