Mon, May 05, 2003 - Page 8 News List

A healthy mentality needed to fight SARS

By Chen Yong-shing 陳永興

As we can see from the history of humanity's battle against disease, disease itself is not frightening. On the contrary, humanity's distorted mentality and ignorance is frightening.

In the history of medicine, how did the human race treat patients of leprosy, tuberculosis, mental illness and epilepsy? Only through modern-day progress in medicine, better understanding of diseases and the efforts of medical professionals was the general public finally able to change their attitude toward patients and give them support and acceptance. The history of our continuous effort to overcome fear and conquer disease should therefore give us faith, courage and hope.

When we look at the challenges of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) from this perspective, can we let medical professionals have more of our faith and courage? Can we lessen the degree of ignorance and discrimination against patients? Can we not use the public's distorted mentality to resist and obstruct the efforts of medical professionals? It is only when people face the challenge of disease with a healthy mind that the outbreak will not turn into a human tragedy.

Do medical professionals need to fear SARS? What a laughable, ridiculous question. Taiwan's news media seem to spread this kind of absurd message so as to make people more fearful of and discriminatory against SARS patients. How can people not show fear, rejection and resistance, if the news media seem to say that medical professionals are all fearful of the epidemic and dare not take care of patients who have contracted it?

The SARS virus is spread through close contact. What is the reason for anxiety and fear if we have proper prevention and control measures? The responsibility of medical professionals is to treat and cure patients. Of course, medical professionals need to have a deep understanding of the cause of disease and its treatment. Once they have the understanding, medical professionals not only know how to take care of themselves but also have the capability to help patients or educate the public about disease prevention. Therefore, they have no reason to fear or discriminate against patients.

Is it possible that firemen, for example, will refuse to perform their job because they say fire is dangerous? The firemen's professional training is meant to help them put out fires and save lives. I believe the nation's medical professionals have received the best education and training. At this time of the SARS invasion upon people's health, we must be able to pass the test and stand up to the difficult challenge.

We should have faith in modern medicine. For the epidemic's quarantine, control and prevention measures, we should readily accept advice from medical professionals and public health experts regarding prevention and treatment. We should also cooperate with the government and make necessary preparations for safeguarding our own health.

We should never prevent and treat SARS by resisting or discriminating against patients. Nor should we cheat ourselves by concealing or not reporting the signs of illness. Relevant government authorities should do their best to inform the public, by distributing public health information to all the people quickly and effectively via the news media. They should help people to understand how to prevent infection and the effective way to help patients.

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