More in opinion


Tuesday, 13 March 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Expensive tests let doctors down

IT’S simply challenging to conduct research and related (publication) works in a resource-limited setting.

Dr A and Dr B conducted a retrospective, observational study on a group of patients with a unique clinical condition in a public hospital. However, their findings were not accepted by overseas medical journals after being reviewed by a few international experts in that particular discipline mainly because an important blood test was not done for the patients.

The test is common and easily available overseas but not so in Malaysia. It is offered by only one or two private labs here but funding to conduct the test, which costs more than RM1,000 each, is not available. Almost all patients can’t afford it despite the fact that it could lead to a more definite diagnosis and subsequently direct specific treatments. Furthermore, blood samples would have to be sent to overseas research centres, thus taking weeks and most likely months for the results to be available.

Blood test procedures

As the doctors’ study was neither prospective nor interventional, and in view of the time constraint, they decided to dig into their own pockets despite their humble income (salary in the civil service). They forked out a few thousand ringgit to pay for the tests on behalf of the patients so that the findings would be more complete and their study wouldn’t be too sub-par. More importantly, the extent of diagnostic dilemma would be significantly eased and a more confident working diagnosis, hence closure, could be provided to the patients. A more targeted and effective treatment could also be offered, hopefully.

Charity? Maybe. Beneficence? Definitely.

Still, if the budget is too limited to even provide for some essential medications and treatment modalities, it’s best to leave research and scientific advancement aside in our setting in accordance with the medical ethics of justice.


Petaling Jaya