At some point or another, nearly every one requires medical attention. Whether it is through a blood transfusion, chemotherapy, or as basic as obstetrical care during pregnancy, humans rely heavily on their medical practitioners. Having said that, when the health care field mistreats us or cheats us, then we have less of a reason to trust them moving forward into the future. Of course, very few humans can endure a lifetime without medical treatment of some kind. Nevertheless, when huge scandals regarding this industry blow up in the media, it is frightening for those who put their lives right into the hands of the deceitful.
Maintaining health can be frustrating as it is without the possibility of those who deliver our care taking advantage or flat-out abusing and neglecting our good will. While we all would like to believe that our local doctors and nurses are kind, well-meaning people, there are some cases when, due to pressures from higher up the food chain, these fine professionals cross the line of their Hippocratic Oath. However, occasionally these scandals come to the surface and were simply the result of oversight or carelessness.
Whichever it is, worrisome and disgraceful acts do occur within the health care industry. Think back nearly three decades to the HIV-tainted blood scandal in Japan. Hemophiliac patients were given untreated blood products by their doctors even after announcements were made that these products caused possible contamination. An oversight such as this can be truly life-changing. Below are 7 completely upsetting and malicious episodes of such oversight or blatant dishonesty by healthcare systems across the globe over the last 10 years.
7. Gurgaon Illegal Kidney Transplant Racket (2008)
In 2008, Gurgaon, the small industrial town neighboring India’s New Delhi, received plenty of media attention when police arrested a physician by the name of Amit Kumar for heading up a black market organ transplant ring. Allegedly, the doctor was removing the kidneys of impoverished Indian laborers and surgically transplanted them into wealthier foreigners who were frantic for a new organ. As many as 600 kidneys were said to have been transplanted illegally. What’s more, the laborers were paid around $1000 to give up this central organ. Then, it was sold on the black market to patients throughout India, Europe, and the United States for sums as highs as $37,500. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Indian public health representatives were shocked by this operation and have since pushed for more donors from actual cadavers so that the demand is not so high tempting citizens to go to such drastic measures.
6. Chinese Heparin Recall (2008)
Also brought to media attention in 2008 was a huge recall of the drug heparin formulated by a US firm in China: Scientific Protein Laboratories. Heparin works as an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, which has helped thousands and thousands of patients prevent blood clots since the 1930s. This drug is formulated from slaughtered animal tissues and is often most helpful to patients post-surgery, while receiving dialysis treatment, and also to those who are bedridden. Apparently, this batch of heparin was contaminated and the recall shadowed approximately 785 drug-linked severe injuries and 81 deaths. What’s worse is that the authorities presumed the contamination was a deliberate act since the contaminated batch worked similarly to the actual drug but at a lesser price. As a result of this recall, the FDA placed nearly 2 dozen heparin ingredient providers on an alert list.
5. Poly Implant Prothèse Recall (2009)
The French company, Poly Implant Prothèse was founded by a former medical sales representative of the Bristol Myers company by the name of Jean-Claude Mas. Reportedly, the entity produced and brought into circulation defective breast implants that were formed with unauthorized silicone fillers of industrial grade. As a result of being implanted with these, the rupture rate doubled as compared to other types. Approximately 300,000 women residing in 65 countries allegedly were implanted with these defective materials. All these women were urged to have the breast implants removed. The ruptured breasts are believed to cause scarring, inflammation, and fibrosis. Plus, since they were developed with contaminants that had never before been included in implants they cannot predict the actual outcomes of having them. The Mas was eventually charged with fraud and implants were removed from the market.
4. UK Whistle-blowers Silenced (2010)
Around the world there are set protocols within health organizations to ensure that unlawful practices are reported and, generally, that the individual who does the reporting is not retaliated against. These protocols are put in place by even the human resource departments of employment firms to secure those who have been harassed or who want to report fraud. Unfortunately, across the United Kingdom, one whistle-blower who exposed the threats to patient safety of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust was not only placed under a gag order but eventually faced legal action by the NHS. Health managers and employers throughout the English system who speak out about tampering with patient’s records and even in Stafford, England where 1000 avoidable deaths were said to have occurred within the hospitals there are not being properly received. Whistle-blowers in these incidents are not being protected but bullied, terminated from their positions, and ultimately silenced.
3. New England Meningitis Outbreak (2012)
Across the ocean in the United States, a multi-state meningitis outbreak was reported in 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were able to connect the epidemic to 3 lots of medication that were being used for epidural steroid injections. These injections were contaminated with fungi. The New England Compounding Center (NECC) located in Massachusetts manufactured and dispersed these medications. By March of 2013, 720 people had contracted a fungal disease and 48 people had died from this contamination. Early investigations determined that the NECC laboratories were filthy and unsanitary. Further information alleged that the firm had moved forward with putting these contaminated drugs into circulation even though they were knowledgeable about the fact that tests results had not been received confirming their sterility.
2. California Female Prisoners Sterilized (2013)
On the opposite coast of America another scandal ensued. Contract physicians within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were charged with sterilizing approximately 150 female inmates in the California correctional system. These sterilizations occurred between the years of 2006 and 2010. Another 148 women underwent tubal ligations that directly violated the rules of the prison during those same years and it is estimated that more than 100 others received the same going back two decades previously. Allegedly, prison staff targeted those women that were considered to have high recidivism rates, coercing them into having the procedures done when they were receiving pregnancy treatment in the prison infirmaries. The Valley State Prison for Women and the California Institution for Women in Corona were the two prisons implicated in the crimes. Plus, one of the physicians who ordered such procedures had a history of other malpractice and controversial practices inside and outside of the facility.
1. Healthcare.gov Website (2013)
Although this one outrage does not involve direct abuse or neglect of under-educated, impoverished, or otherwise, susceptible patients, it does bring shame to the overall healthcare industry. The staple of the new and quite controversial Affordable Care Act plan, healthcare.gov, has caused much political and civil backlash over how funds were spent along with other intriguing elements. The cost to produce the website has a staggering obligation of $677 million. Now, this is enough to cause anyone to frown as most declare that the project could have been completed for a fraction of the cost. However, that’s not the half of it. The website which went live on October 1st is not even functioning as it should be. That’s right, a website costing 9 figures is not up to par. You may wonder where the scandal in that is. Well, controversialists around the web are questioning why such a large and expensive project was given right off to a Canadian firm when the boys in Silicon Valley could have done it. Also, it appears that the project did not even include an option to bid—the Canadian company got the project automatically.