【明報專訊】The electrocardiogram (心電圖) went sluggish, finally resigning to a quiet horizontal line. On the last day of 2020, a good friend bid farewell to his grandmother, who, at the mellow age of 90, had been bed-ridden (臥病在牀的) for a month due to deteriorating lungs. Amidst the havoc COVID has wreaked, the family has paid for one of the most expensive private hospitals in town in exchange for the right to visit in her last days. Of course, they had also hoped for more attentive services, which was regretfully absent. Requests were often neglected to a point where the patient almost choked multiple times. Money cannot buy health. It can barely buy quality medical services.
The desired attentiveness was finally demonstrated as the patient passed away. In a matter of minutes, a nurse entered with standard props. "Put her false teeth in this cup. Take away any belongings you wish to keep. We shall dispose of the rest. And here's your bill to settle before tonight. Sign here." I wonder if artificial intelligence could handle the matter with more human touch. Stupefied, the family tried to wrap their heads around her requests while collecting themselves over the fresh loss of their loved one.
45 minutes later, a doctor arrived. "She is certified dead," he murmured, making his way to another patient, or perhaps, another corpse that has completed its profit-making-purposes.
This episode was infuriating and unsettling. Even if we regard private medical practices as a mere commodity, they should be held to a high standard given their fees. In essence, medical care should never be viewed as a mere commercial product. Terminal illnesses are difficult both for the patient and for their carers. Sometimes, gentle words and gestures may be the best cure to their pain. Failing that, these private medical institutions and some of their practitioners are a disgrace to the vows they took to care for the weak and needy.
Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.