Wed, 22 Jan 2003

Malpractice brings unbearable suffering

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Nurul Qomariyah never imagined she would be a widow by the time she was 26, left with a 2-year-old son and carrying an unborn child.

"But what hurt me most is how I lost my husband in such a careless way," said Nurul, a reporter for Internet news portal

It has been eight days since Nurul's late husband, freelance journalist Eko Wariadi, died of malaria after being hospitalized for one week.

But it was not until his last day in the hospital that doctors diagnosed the disease.

"At first he just had a light fever, so we took him to the nearby Pondok Gede Haj Hospital (East Jakarta). The diagnosis was typhoid fever," Nurul said.

Instead of improving, Eko's condition worsened, with the addition of a cough, breathing problems and stomach pains.

"Doctors insisted that he was having an asthma attack even though I insisted that he didn't have asthma," Nurul said.

On the fifth day, his breathing problems became worse and Eko started to have convulsions, his lungs swelled up and he gradually lost consciousness.

But doctors still could not diagnose what was wrong with him.

A team of doctors then came up with kidney failure, but since the hospital does not have a dialysis machine, Eko was transferred to the Cempaka Putih Islamic Hospital in Central Jakarta.

"A doctor there asked me whether my husband had been out of town recently. I said yes, he had been to Lampung and Lombok in the past one month," Nurul said.

Lampung is a province where malaria is still endemic.

"Apparently the doctor at Cempaka Putih knew right away that my husband had malaria. Unfortunately, it was too late," she said.

Nurul said she was not accusing the doctors of malpractice.

"I just regret so much that doctors can be so careless. I wonder, do doctors in this country tend to be that way? Because I've heard about so many malpractice cases here," she said.

And like other victims of malpractice, Nurul has opted not to take legal action.

Numerous cases of malpractice came under the media spotlight in 2002.

One case occurred in Bengkulu, where a patient died on the surgery table at M. Yunus General Hospital after mistakenly being given the deadly carbon dioxide instead of nitrous oxide.

The case was brought to court but judges found the doctors innocent, saying they had only administered the gas that had been provided by the hospital.

Many incidents occur during childbirth, such as two malpractice suits brought in Bekasi last year by women who had undergone caesarean sections.

The first case involved Lusi Ariani of Rawalumbu Bekasi, who found that she had a wound on her calf after her caesarean section. After repeatedly asking the doctor where the wound came from, he admitted that she had been cut on the calf by a piece of equipment during the surgery.

The second case occurred at Mitra Keluarga Hospital and involved a woman named Sutiyah. The surgeon cut her baby while performing a caesarean section.

The father brought the case to the police and asked for compensation from the hospital.

However, neither case seems to have gone anywhere in the courts.

And in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra, a woman named Yusnita died after giving birth after the hospital mistakenly gave her an infusion of the wrong blood type.

The mother lost a lot of blood while giving birth, so a doctor took a blood sample that he read as type A while it should have been type O.

Like many other victims of malpractice, Yusnita's family did not pursue the matter in the courts. It could be that they just assumed the court's decision would favor the doctors.