Ayurveda and patient safety

Context: Efficacy of Ayurveda to incorporate surgical techniques.

What are the requirements for conducting a successful surgery?

  • Apprenticeship is the key: Surgery in the present era is an interdisciplinary effort. This is one branch of medicine where knowledge can only be acquired through apprenticeship that is, the learner needs to be guided by an expert
  • A well-trained anaesthesiologist keeps the patient free of pain.
  • Other specialist doctors address any other illnesses that the patient has before surgery can be safely performed.
  • The well-trained surgeon must have a good knowledge of the structure of the human body in health and disease.
  • Clinical judgement: The surgeon needs to know when not to perform surgery, a skill commonly called clinical judgement. These skills are difficult to teach and difficult to master.
  • Modern medical training: It consists of a basic degree during which the fundamentals of the functioning of humans in health and disease, and techniques to diagnose illnesses are taught. Increased knowledge in various domains is obtained through postgraduate training.
  • Ayurveda and modern medicine: It is impossible for Ayurveda to incorporate surgical techniques while ignoring all the other domains of modern medicine and still perform surgery safely and effectively.
  • Safe and effective health care should not become a casualty of a misguided desire to protect indigenous systems.

What are the problems?

  • Data: Data from the United States suggests that up to 4,000 surgical errors occur each year despite well-considered controls on who can perform surgery.
  • Efforts to reduce this rate focus on better training. Besides professional codes, legal mechanisms have been developed to ensure safe medical practice.
  • Consumer protection act: In India, the Consumer Protection Act serves as an incentive to modern medical practitioners to provide high quality health care. Even this legal mechanism is not accessible to the poor.
  • Deepening inequality: The quality of medical care received in India is highly dependent on personal resources. Surgical facilities manned by graduates of Ayurveda will be utilized only by the very poor who do not have the resources to access modern medical care.
  • This will further root the existing grossly unequal access to health care.

Way forward

  • Increase medical colleges: There is a shortage of trained medical personnel in rural areas. The only way to address this is to greatly increase the number of government medical colleges.
  • The way forward is to incorporate traditional medical systems into modern medicine.
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