Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Star Editorial: Medical standards need to be kept high

Medical standards need to be kept high

Sunday Star Editorial, March 13, 2011

THE decision to permit Malay­sian medical students to study at any educational institution in the world would surely seem to come as a welcome measure, following planned amendments to the Medical Act 1971.

Intending students have always had to juggle between the required costs, admission requirements and suitability of institution in regard to governmental and professional recognition of the degrees awarded when selecting a course of study. It now appears that a windfall of no restrictions has presented itself even before the students enrol.

Unfortunately, many among those who would rejoice may be those seeking the “easiest course” to pass. But graduating from an institution that offers undemanding study and lax examinations is the route to dubious professional standards, or worse.

Only where students are consistently trained, tested and prepared rigorously to exacting standards can professionalism be assured. This generally means opting for established and reputable institutions where affordable.

This basic reality applies to all fields of study. What sets medicine apart from most other disciplines is laboratory work requiring biological samples, incurring higher costs in tuition fees.

Course expenses figure prominently in many a household’s choice of study institution. The freedom to choose from a much wider selection of institutions is therefore a boon, but one that should come with certain self-imposed limits.

Medicine is different from most other disciplines in another important way: graduating doctors begin a professional life that decides the fate of patients’ lives. For this reason alone, substandard courses at questionable institutions must never do.

Even after the amendments to the Medical Act, students still need a “No Objection” certificate from the Higher Education Ministry. Graduates must also sit for a licensing examination before registering with the Malaysian Medical Council.

These requirements must be regarded as safeguards to ensure acceptable standards of professionalism. With all things considered, intending students must continue to be selective of the available courses – and be selective for the right reasons.

We must hope that in the crucial life-determining work that doctors do in the course of their daily duties, no professional standards or judgment will be compromised. A matter of life and death for patients can never be deemed secondary, particularly when everyone is likely to be a patient at some point.

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