Opinion: Prioritizing patients by their politics is a breach of medical ethics, or worse

Thai doctors all swear the oath drafted by Mahidol Adulyadej, the father of modern medicine in Thailand. The first oath is to strictly adhere to the code of ethics set out by the Medical Council of Thailand.

Rules 5, 6 and 7 of the Code are:

  • A doctor must behave appropriately and fairly in a society
  • A doctor must not commit any action that would make the profession look bad
  • A doctor must practice with good intentions, regardless of the patient’s nationality, religion and political faction.

According to the oath and the code of ethics, Rianthong Naenna, the director of the Mongkutwattana Hospital, should no longer be called a doctor.

“Covid-19 patients that went out to protest are not on the prioritized list at Mongkutwattana Hospital,” he wrote on his social media page on Tuesday.

“The prioritization will be for people who are loyal to the King first and if there are any hospital beds left, we will only consider receiving protesters on a case by case basis after we screen them for their behaviour,” he added.

I felt disgusted just to translate his appalling words.

And come to think of it, not only should the ultra-royalist not be called a doctor but one now has to ask where is his humanity?

Covid-19 patients are dying on the streets because they cannot find any help. It is unimaginable how a person who calls themselves a doctor can even consider a dying patient’s political preference before deciding to give the person treatment.

If you witnessed a car crash and a person was dying on the street, would you try to find a way to help or would you first ask the injured person what political preference he or she has before deciding whether to help them?

We are in the midst of a medical crisis where almost 100 people are dying on a daily basis. More than 100,000 people are being treated in hospitals right now while thousands more are waiting at home for treatment.  

And this is all Dr Rianthong can think of?

Even during the World Wars, a medic entering a battlefield knew that if they saw a soldier on the opposite side dying, they would have to help because that is what doctors must do.

But we are not at war. We are not shooting at one another. We are fighting a deadly pandemic, and we should be doing it together as a nation — united not divided.

What Rianthong said will only divide the people even further. In fact, people could die because of it. I hope no other doctor out there thinks like him.

I also hope no other royalists think like him because his comments make the people who love the royal institution and the institution itself look bad.

The Medical Council of Thailand must investigate his comments, and strip him of his licence. Doctors at the Mongkutwattana Hospital should think twice before renewing their contract if they do not want to be associated too closely with him.

And if he still wants to call himself a doctor, Rainthong should also go back to read the oath that was given to his profession by the Prince Father and the code of ethics that he must comply with in order to be considered one.

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