It is often said, and not completely in jest, that Nigerians have a very high threshold for bullshit; when we are pushed to the wall, rather than turn around and fight, we break through the wall. This attitude becomes even more evident when we’re required to stand up for ourselves, demand good service or demand that a wrong done to us be righted. this is when we often take the biblical injunction to ‘turn the other cheek’ to the extreme.
Far too often, we allow ‘well-meaning’ individuals, family and friends to emotionally blackmail us into not doing the right thing – caring more about how your demand for redress will negatively impact the perpetrator rather than the possibly long-lasting effects of the wrong done, and more importantly, future victims. In medicine and healthcare, this unwillingness to stand up for ourselves will often lead to disastrous consequences. Two incidents occurred this weekend that I hope would make us at least stop and think when next we decide to ‘let go, and let God’, especially when it has to do with the quality of medical services received.
Yesterday, a lady made a thread on Twitter, describing her experience of being abused by a doctor at a private hospital where she had gone to seek treatment for food poisoning. First off, let me tell you for free, that there’s no case of food poisoning that warrants a vaginal examination, let alone groping of breasts and buttocks. Secondly, the foremost rule drummed into us in medical school is that if you must examine a patient, get a chaperone. Preferably of the same sex as the patient, to be in the room while you examine – to protect yourself. What made the situation even more damning is that the lady has an audio recording of the doctor basically admitting to have done a vaginal examination to check for impacted faeces and constipation. I call B.S
Two things stood out for me from the lady’s story; one, she thought of pursuing the case through official channels but quickly discarded that option because of the stress that was going to be involved. The second thing was how many people in the comments tried to downplay what had happened to her – sexual assault, essentially, or insinuate that she was posting about it because she had an agenda to bring him down.
I was somewhat involved in the second incident. A couple of months ago, I went to the market to buy some cosmetics from my regular shop. I’m quite friendly with the owners of the shop, and I had my baby a few months before one of the ladies there. On this visit, I noticed that the baby had an eye discharge, which I questioned her mother about. She said she had noticed it, that the baby had been sick, and she had taken her to a private hospital. She then offered to show me the medications the baby was placed on. When she brought out a whole pharmacy of drugs from her bag, I was alarmed. Not only was she given two antibiotics with similar mechanism of action, she was also given antimalarial tablets, in addition to being placed on injections for 3 days, which I suspected to also be an antimalarial. Finally, she was given Diclofenac syrup, a potent painkiller, prescribed at an excessive dose. I explained to her that the drugs were excessive and probably unnecessary for her less than a year old baby. I wanted to have this so called hospital and doctor investigated, I even made some calls, but then the lady balked, refusing to release important details to me. She said her husband had said that it was enough that she was no longer going to take the baby there, and she didn’t want any trouble.
Fast forward to yesterday, the family friend I had called to help with the investigations – because she has some important connections, and also knows the lady in question – called me. After exchanging pleasantries, she said she had called to find out how the case with that lady and the hospital ended. I told her that because the lady involved withheld information, refusing to release even the location of the clinic, I was unable to pursue the issue. She then asked if I remembered the name of the clinic. Another lady who is like a daughter to her had just lost her baby in a ‘private hospital’. the story sounded similar to what I had told her about the cosmetics lady’s baby. This baby had a fever and was taken to this ‘hospital’ where the ‘doctor’ had given them some medicines and placed them on a 3-day course of injections. After the second injection, the baby had started behaving funny, whereupon they returned to the ‘hospital’ and the baby was admitted and placed on drip. When the baby started gasping and was close to giving up, the ‘doctor’ finally packaged them and dropped them off at the General Hospital where the baby passed away.
My family friend is deeply pained. She keeps lamenting that if perhaps she had followed up on the case, ‘her baby’ would not have died. Yet, even as she is vowing to pursue the matter to it’s logical conclusion now, she is receiving calls from the relatives of the first lady, begging her to let the matter go; that she should not ‘take food out of someone’s mouth’, that whatever action she takes is not going to bring back the dead baby, neither would any amount of compensation. It is enough to make me curse somebody. So she’s asking me, ‘What of all the children that will die in that clinic? Do I want to have their blood on my hands?’
This attitude – this one that makes us apologists for rapists and murderers, it doesn’t help anybody. The next time you’re tempted to feel sorry for these kinds of people, people who should be investigated and punished for horrible actions, please just don’t. And if you won’t grow a spine and stick up for yourself, then try not to be the stumbling block in someone else’s way.
Have a fab week ahead!
I have had some upheaval in my personal life that has made posting next to impossible, hence the long silence. Hopefully, things are settling down now (knock on wood!).
See you soon, when I share my thoughts (and then some), on Covid-19 Till then, wash your hands always and stay safe!