Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Playing Doctor

My siblings and I had an interesting discussion with my dad about his health condition recently. That discussion was suggested by one of the doctors who had attended him at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 2; we met her and had a long chat a day earlier. There were several issues related to dad's health as a whole, but to make the long story short, dad is very sick and there isn't much medical science can do to improve his condition. 

According to the doctor, he is apt to spend increasingly more time at the hospital in the near future, and sooner or later, we will have to deal with the fact that his body is failing. The inevitable question is that when that time comes, would we want the doctors to "try every possible means to keep him alive?"; meaning with the help of equipments such as the ventilator. The doctor suggested that we should discuss this with dad, since it concerns him.

I thought dad would want some time to think about it. Instead, he made up his mind very quickly, and he was adamant about it. He said if it is obvious that there is nothing more the doctors can do to help him, then there is no point to hook him up to the machines just for the sake of keeping his body going, but not really alive. To be honest, knowing his character, I had expected him to arrive at that decision. But anyway, nobody can tell how much time he has—it could be months; maybe a year or two...who can say.

Some years ago, when dad had his second heart attack, somebody introduced him to some sort of food supplement, at an astronomical price, that was supposed to help strengthen his heart and unclog his arteries. Dad took it for a few months. But a subsequent review by the doctors revealed that his condition did not improve at all. Those food supplements did absolutely nothing for him.

Then a conversation with a friend about mortality rate and major breakthroughs in medical science. New drugs and surgical procedures that can prolong lives like never before; people in general can live longer these days.

Although I don't have the official statistics, I have a feeling that at least half of the people living in Kota Kinabalu are doing some sort of part time business, selling health products to complement earnings from their fulltime jobs; and apparently all of those products "have been proven" can help in maintaining and improving health, even cure serious illnesses that have baffled medical science for years. We have Elken, Shakelee, Amway, Cosway, and all the way up to full Direct Circle, just to name a few; alkaline water filtering system that can cure numerous illnesses from diabetes, heart diseases, and even cancer.

In all these direct-selling businesses, there are several similarities. The products are almost always very much more expensive than alternative products in the market. That is of course an expected result for businesses where there are many, many middlemen, because obviously all those people along the many tiers would expect to earn something. Downline upon downline upon downline members, all of whom are not doing it for free. Even if each middleman earns a tiny portion, when seen as a whole, it will be a big amount—there is just no way to run, somehow it will be reflected in the selling price. I guess that is just business; everyone is seeking to earn more money if he can.

I am not a doctor, and of course there is a lot that I don't know about my body. But I read quite a bit on some topics and am therefore aware of some medical facts, although admittedly I don't know the full scientific details. I am wary of people who are much less educated than I am, trying to play doctor when explaining to me scientifically why their products are good for me, thus justifying why their products are expensive.

Even if there is any truth that these products can really work in curing whatever illnesses that I have, I'd probably have to take up a mortgage to afford the exorbitant prices. Just a bottle for a month's supply may cost in excess of RM100, and there is a full range of products out there, all supposedly good for me. Alkaline water filter selling at RM12,000 a piece. The selling point is always spending the money for the prevention of dreaded diseases.Well, I guess I will miss the opportunity to extend my life for a few more years. This is all that I can afford.

No comments: