Following the excellent article in The Star (April 10) by Consumers Association of Penang president SM Mohamed Idris entitled 'Learn from mistakes, MMA', I would now like to ask: What about the Malaysian Medical Council? Are they doing their job protecting patient's safety or are they just closing ranks to protect their own kind?
I brought a complaint with serious allegations against a surgeon to the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC), three and a half years ago. Instead of assisting me, the MMC made it impossible for me to have a fair hearing.
I approached leading surgeons in Malaysia for an expert opinion but they all refused to give me a written report or testify against another Malaysian surgeon. Due to this lack of co-operation I had to seek expensive expert opinion from abroad (which confirmed gross negligence) but these were barred at the Preliminary Investigative Hearing, concealing the true course of events.
This was an investigative hearing, a tribunal, where independent medical reports by specialists should have been accepted. It was not a court of law where criminal standards of evidence apply.
I asked the chairman for a copy of the guidelines to the MMC procedures but was told it was up to me to find one for myself! (I never did manage to find a complete copy.)
The surgeon was represented by a specialist medical lawyer whereas my lawyer was not allowed to speak on my behalf.
My siblings were barred from the hearing, even as observers, although they had been equally affected. They had come from abroad specifically to attend. I could not find any reference to this exclusion in the MMC guidelines to procedures.
To avoid a postponement I agreed to abandon my request to have them present (I had come from London to attend the hearing and could not afford to waste further time). The chairman then insisted I declare on record this was voluntary and not made under duress! What else could I do?
I was denied permission to use my own tape recorder but was told that transcripts of the hearing would eventually be made available to me. They took two and a half months to arrive and a large part of the recording was missing. If they can exclude parts of the hearing at will, what other parts might be excluded?
It seemed the chairman of the PIC, Dr Mohamed Mahmoud showed a clear bias towards the surgeon and I later discovered that the surgeon's defence counsel was the president of the Medico-Legal Society whereas the PIC chairman was his own vice-president!
How can this be? On my declaring these interests to the chairman he refused to disqualify himself and told me I would have to seek a High Court Order to have him removed! For what reason was he obstructing justice?
I quoted from Malaysian Judge RK Nathan's book The law relating to medical practice: "In the administration of justice, whether by a recognised legal court or by persons who, although not a legal public court, are acting in the same sort of capacity, public policy requires that, in order that there may be no doubt as to the purity of the administration, any person who takes part in it shall not be in such a position that he might reasonably be suspected of being biased."
I sent many recorded delivery letters to the chairman and to the Director General of Health but neither replied. I was later told that "they were under no obligation to reply to my letters"! It had been a time-wasting exercise from the start and I wasted three years and a lot of my money.
How can blatantly poor standards of medicine possibly be allowed in current practice in Malaysia? Who can the public turn to if the Medical Association and the Medical Council are happy to condone it?
Does this mean this is the medical standard Malaysians must accept? I have nothing to gain, but I feel a responsibility to report this on behalf of the general public as this is no longer a private affair but has become a public health issue.
There are often occasions when Malaysians can be justly proud of their achievements (Malaysia Boleh!), but I don't think we should pretend this is one of them.